CERN Accelerating science

How fundamental science is changing our world

Fundamental science benefits society in many ways, from generating knowledge about how our universe works, to enabling unexpected and often transformative applications. Particle accelerators have been at the centre of many of the most advanced research infrastructures for decades. They have enabled many discoveries, such as the Higgs boson, and also led to the development of technologies that have changed our lives.

Future particle accelerators are expected to have a similarly bold impact on science and society. To showcase and the discuss the technologies that are currently being developed within the global Future Circular Collider (FCC) study, almost 1,000 researchers and industrialists from across Europe, university and high school students participated in “Particle Colliders – Accelerating Innovation”, an international science Symposium that took place in Liverpool on Friday 22nd March 2019.

The event, which was co-hosted by the University of Liverpool and CERN together with partners from the Future Circular Collider and EuroCirCol projects and the support of the EASITRain and AVA MSCA training networks, investigated the opportunities that a next generation of colliders can offer to industry, scientists and society.

In January 2019, CERN published the conceptual design report for the Future Circular Collider (FCC), a potential successor to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which aims to expand our current understanding of nature beyond the established physical model of the universe.

Professor Carsten P. Welsch, Head of the University of Liverpool Physics Department and organizer of the event, explains why fundamental research is key to advancing a knowledge-based society: “Fundamental research enables discoveries that push the boundaries of our understanding of the universe. This requires highly advanced experiments, made possible through a true global effort. Developing the design concept for future research infrastructures is not just about the science they would enable; it also requires us to drive technological progress that can benefit our everyday lives.”

The keynote talks from the Symposium were live-streamed to institutions across Europe and are now available to watch via the event website. Dozens of companies from across the UK and other EU countries showcased their latest products in an industry exhibition which followed the morning talks. The exhibition also served university students as a careers fair. They had their normal modules replaced by this unique event and found an ideal opportunity to discuss employment opportunities in different sectors. A wide range of high tech companies joined the event and provided insight into where their physics degree might take the students to next.

Image 1. Part of the outreach exhibition with the LHC interactive tunnel in the front. (Image: University of Liverpool)

More than a dozen different outreach activities, each one offered several times in parallel, were available to high school students. This included the Plasmatron, an interactive game explaining the physics behind plasma accelerators, salad bowl accelerators showing how high voltages can be generated, the augmented reality accelerator acceleratAR that turns paper cubes into components of a particle accelerator, and cryo-experiments that turned flowers into glass-like objects…which were then smashed into pieces by the children, as can be seen on the photo below.

Image 2. Part of the outreach exhibition with the LHC interactive tunnel in the front. (Image: University of Liverpool)

The entire hall was full of physics, in fact, there was even physics in the way that activities were set up as they were arranged along the spectral colours of the rainbow. A leaflet was made available to all participants and explained the link between each individual activity and ongoing accelerator science R&D.

A highlight for the hundreds of visually impaired and sighted students attending was a demonstration of the world’s first interactive ‘Tactile Collider’, which uses touch together with real sounds from the LHC to create an immersive experience. This unique experience was developed by experts from the Cockcroft Institute and has been touring the UK over the past 2 years. The event was made inclusive for VI children: in addition to tactile collider, all talks were supported by a narrator who explained the slides on display via Bluetooth headset to them. RNIB Connect Radio's Simon Pauley spoke with Dr Chris Edmonds and Professor Carsten Welsch the day before the event and you can listen to the interview here.

Finally, delegates also had the chance to play proton football and interact with visualisations of themselves in two different universes within CERN’s interactive Large Hadron Collider Tunnel, which made its UK premiere at the Symposium.

The “Particle Colliders: Accelerating Innovation” Symposium was co-hosted by the University of Liverpool and CERN, together with partners from the Future Circular Collider and EuroCirCol projects, on Friday 22 March 2019 at the ACC Liverpool. All talks and further information are available via the event website:

Linn Tvede, Giovanni Porcellana (CERN)
Using CERN magnet technology in innovative cancer treatment
10 Dec 2018

Using CERN magnet technology in innovative cancer treatment

The enormous size of today’s gantries poses constraints on future hadron-therapy facilities.

Anaïs Schaeffer
Aligning the HL-LHC magnets with interferometry
4 Dec 2019

Aligning the HL-LHC magnets with interferometry

CERN surveyors have developed a procedure based on interferometry to determine the position of cold masses inside the cryostats of the future HL-LHC.

Federico Carra (CERN)
A novel composite for HL-LHC collimators
12 Jul 2019

A novel composite for HL-LHC collimators

During the LS2, the LHC collimation system will be upgraded with new primary collimators for halo cleaning and in the dispersion suppression region.

Academia-industry collaboration drives innovation

Co-innovation workshop focused on strategic R&D programme of future collider and the benefits for industry in terms of project involvement and product commercialisation.

A new particle collider requires pushing numerous technologies beyond their state of the art. This situation provides industry with powerful test-beds for future markets that come with a high publicity factor. Novel technologies and processes can be piloted with controlled effort engagement. Well-controlled environments allow advancing technologies under conditions that extend beyond conventional product requirements. SMEs are ideal partners to bring these technologies to maturity on the quality level, generating new markets and leading to improved products.

Around 100 researchers, academics and industry delegates from the UK and other EU countries joined an academia-industry Co-Innovation workshop in Liverpool, UK on 22 March 2019. The event explored the exciting opportunities that the technology R&D around the FCC study presents for industry involvement and joint R&D programmes and was supported by the EU-funded EuroCirCol project and that MSCA training networks of EASITrain, OMA and AVA.

Image 1. Workshop participants discussing a range of key technologies. (Image: University of Liverpool)

Discussions across a number of working groups were motivated by the Future Circular Collider (FCC) study, but not limited to this study or even particle accelerators at all – the aim was to identify common ground for joint R&D across disciplinary boundaries. 

Working groups were formed to discuss specific opportunities for co-innovation and funding and included for example superconducting magnet technologies which are also two key topics for EASITrain, cryogenics, civil engineering, detector development, radiofrequency technology, energy efficiency, novel materials and material processing techniques.

Image 2. An industry exhibition took place before the workshop to showcase latest technologies. (Image: University of Liverpool)

Short talks about FCC-related areas for innovation, examples of successful technology transfer projects at CERN, as well as current funding opportunities stimulated interesting discussions amongst the participants. All of these presentations are now available via the workshop homepage.

The workshop served as an ideal platform for networking across sector boundaries and opened a number of interesting discussions. Several areas were identified that provide an excellent basis for co-innovation, including resource-efficient tunnelling, transferring optimised purpose-built machine learning soft- and hardware from particle physics to industry, and detector R&D in terms of high speed, power  and material constraints, cooling, and data maximization. Notes from all working groups are currently being finalized and will be used to follow up on agreed R&D lines with the aim to setup joint funding bids between participants.

It is anticipated that the final applications of the new technologies that are being developed for a next generation collider will stretch far beyond the applications initially targeted. The World Wide Web, originally invited to support particle physics experiments, has just celebrated its 30th anniversary and is an outstanding example of how these technologies can impact on everyday lives.

There are many other successful examples of where innovations made for fundamental research are benefiting society - most of the time in completely unforeseen ways. The FCC study illustrates this in the brand-new film “Busy bees and might magnets – From the Higgs to Honey: What's all the Buzz about Particle Accelerators?” which was produced between CERN and the University of Liverpool.



The film was launched at the event in Liverpool is now available on YouTube.

M. Sorbi, M. Statera
The RCSM in MgB2 successfully tested at INFN-LASA
1 Oct 2019

The RCSM in MgB2 successfully tested at INFN-LASA

The Superconducting Magnet Team at INFN-LASA completed the assembly and test of the “Round Coil Superferric Magnet” corrector.

Alessandro Bertarelli (CERN)
High thermal performance materials
8 Oct 2018

High thermal performance materials

ARIES has launched an extensive characterization campaign of a broad range of high thermal performance materials for applications in future particle accelerators and the industry.

Vitaliy Goryashko (Uppsala University), Georgii Shamuilov (Uppsala University), Peter Salén (Uppsala University), David Dunning (Cockcroft Institute, STFC), Neil Thompson (Cockcroft Institute, STFC), Brian W. J. McNeil (STFC , UPA Strathclyde)
Towards single-cycle attosecond light from accelerators
21 Mar 2019

Towards single-cycle attosecond light from accelerators

New concepts build upon a strong link between linear accelerators, FELs and quantum lasers.

And the winners of the ARIES Proof-of-Concept fund are…

ARIES Proof-of-Concept fund was open from December 2017 to April 2018 (Image: CERN)

On the 14th of December 2017, the ARIES project launched a call for proposals to its Proof-of-Concept (PoC) fund, aiming at fostering innovation and enhancing the impact of accelerator technology in society. How? By offering a total funding of €200,000 for up to four projects based on accelerator science with clear potential to go beyond the realm of scientific research with particle accelerators. This funding program is designed to bridge the gap between the seed stages of research and full commercial application, therefore reducing the financial risks associated with early-stage innovation.

The goal is clear: the accelerator community should propose ideas and early-phase projects focusing on the possible societal and commercial applications of these ideas within fields such as medicine, energy, security, and any others of relevance where accelerator technology has great potential to deliver value.

ARIES manages this fund through a dedicated Work Package, WP14 Promoting Innovation, led by Marcello Losasso from the CERN Knowledge Transfer Group. WP14 is dedicated to foster technology development in key areas, strengthen relationships with commercial partners, and provide advice to ARIES members on intellectual property (IP), management, and licensing. The PoC funding has the vocation to investigate the commercial feasibility of a new concept, as well as identifying opportunities for partnerships, licences and IP positions, in a holistic approach to innovation.

Through a competitive two-step selection process, projects were shortlisted for interview based on the quality and potential impact, as described in their proposal. All 10 projects submitted to ARIES PoC were extremely interesting, well prepared and would have deserved proper support. However, in consideration of the available budget, only the four projects that scored highest were invited to present their proposal. This presentation took place on the 15th of June, in front of a specially appointed Project Evaluation Committee (EvCo). The EvCo, chaired by the WP14 Leader, Mr Losasso, was keen to assess not only the technical aspects of the proposals, but also the potential of turning the research outputs into spill-overs with commercial impact for other sectors. Special focus was given to the possibility of involving Business Incubators to create more exploitation opportunities for the projects and to engage with already established supply chains, including industrial partners.

The four projects presented to the EvCo were evaluated as extremely interesting given their potential applications.

Riga Technical University presented a wide collaborative project involving academic partners (Universities of Warsaw and Huddersfield), scientific laboratories (Fraunhofer and CERN), a commercial company (e-Beam) and two shipyards (Gdansk and Riga) and aimed to tackle the challenge of pollution generated by marine diesel exhaust gas, using electron beam accelerators.

The RHP company from Austria presented a project in collaboration with GSI, supported by 2 industrial partners from Malta (IMA Engineering) and Austria (ASMAG), aimed at preparing innovative composite materials, containing diamonds, with tailored thermophysical properties. In this case, applications are expected in the area of power electronic, laser and collimators for future accelerators.

Another project was presented by CEA, France, supported by an industrial partner (Zanon, Italy), focusing on the development of a novel technology for producing Superconducting Radio Frequency Cavity. The method, Atomic Layer Deposition, if proved successful, could dramatically impact the construction and operational cost of large accelerator projects, such as FCC and CLIC.

The University of Liverpool, together with D-Beam Ltd., industrial partner from UK, presented an innovative project aimed to develop an advanced optical imaging system. Applications are expected not only for beam diagnostic in light sources and synchrotrons, but also for video projectors and displays.

These four projects, given their outstanding quality and application potential, have eventually been proposed for award to the ARIES Steering Committee and to the Governing Board. The award is expected very soon and, within a few weeks, the projects can start their planned activities.

“We are delighted that the PoC fund generated so much interest and that 10 very good proposals were submitted” says Maurizio Vretenar, ARIES Project Scientific Coordinator, based at CERN in Switzerland. “It showcases the maturity of the accelerators ecosystem, to look beyond particle physics and explore a larger field of applications that can benefit society at an even bigger scale. We are all very excited to see how the four projects we selected will develop and deliver the expected impact they have been designed for.”

To be continued!  

Shane Koscielniak (TRIUMF), Tor Raubenheimer (SLAC)
IPAC 18: Vancouver welcomes the world of accelerator physics!
28 Jun 2018

IPAC 18: Vancouver welcomes the world of accelerator physics!

IPAC18 brought together accelerator scientists and industrial vendors from across the globe to share ideas on the cutting edge of accelerator science and technology.

Panagiotis Charitos (CERN)
Interview with Robert-Jan Smits
8 Oct 2018

Interview with Robert-Jan Smits

A sit down with Robert-Jan Smits one of the architects of the European research area and a firm supporter of scientific knowledge and technology as means to address today’s greatest challenges.

Martin Bellwood (University of Liverpool)
AVA – Training (anti)matters
6 Mar 2018

AVA – Training (anti)matters

Early stage AVA researchers benefit from established and bespoke training events

More bang from your beam: reimagining X-ray conversion

Team HADDPHI, from Hungary, represented by Balazs Ujvari, Berta Korcsmaros, David Baranyai and Balazs Gyongyosi, worked on the challenge of making x-ray conversion more effective. (Image: CERN)

The X-rays used for radiation therapy, medical imaging and many other applications are produced by slamming an electron beam into a piece of metal. Most of the energy from the beam goes into heat, and the X-rays that are released have a wide energy spectrum. Only a small fraction of the X-rays actually end up being useful, e.g. for irradiating a tumour.

The challenge is therefore to make X-ray conversion more efficient, reducing the size and cost of medical accelerators used for radiation therapy. If the spectrum could be made narrower, then it would allow better targeting of tumours with less radiation delivered to healthy tissues. Narrow-band X-ray sources also have applications in medical imaging, non-destructive testing and security.

To solve this challenge and a series of others CERN organised a Hackathon for students and young professionals in April 2018 targeted to the medical field. RadiaBeam set the challenge of reimagining X-ray conversion and the selected team named HADDPHI (for Hardware Development Debrecen PHysics Institute) was given access to relevant CERN technologies.

Why is a hackathon organised by CERN focusing on MedTech? Early activities at CERN relating to medical applications date back to the 1970s. In light of the significant growth in these activities, in 2017, CERN published a formal medical applications strategy. The Medtech:Hack was then initiated to explore new ways of developing viable applications in the field.

So coming back to the RadiaBeam challenge: how to make X-ray conversion more efficient, reducing the size and cost of medical accelerators used for radiation therapy?

Before joining the Medtech:Hack, the HADDPHI team saw a presentation about Crystal Clear collaboration and were very impressed how High Energy Physics (HEP) can support medical applications. Though their exposure to the accelerators’ community was limited, they seized the opportunity to be exposed to more experts through the hack process.

From the CERN technologies, they selected the GEANT4 based on their past experience starting with simulations seemed a good idea. Furthermore, GEANT4 can be used to simulate one setup and its reliability has been proven in the field of particle physics. Finding the optimal configuration amongst millions needs the development of a framework that can manage this search. This could be performed thanks to the flexibility of the GEANT4 software.

So what is the solution the HADDPHI came up with?

Using GEANT to find the best parameters for an existing or paperboard X-ray devices for radiation therapy. It is key to find the optimal configuration amongst 100 to 200 parameters to render the X-ray spectrum as sharp as possible for X-ray therapy. They also investigated how to use the Timepix detector to monitor the beam created and therefore identify the corresponding delivered treatment to the patients.

When asked about their experience during the Hackathon, Berta Korcsmaros one of the team members stated: “We are electric engineers and physicists, we've never thought about business plan. Talking about how to bring a solution to the market was very new and very exciting to us. The Hackathon support team helped us a lot with making a good presentation. As well although we knew what CERN was doing, it was such a great experience to see how the Research and Development is done in real life.”

Indeed Timepix and GEANT4 experts explained to the team how to optimise the parameters to improve the Timepix detector and to use GEANT4 for the dedicated simulation to be performed. Also the Challenge Owner, Salime Boucher the CEO of RadiaBeam helped the team with benchmarking their proposed solution against state-of-the-art devices and this is him who introduced the team to the GEANT4 simulations. Moreover, for him, “The HADDPHI team came up with an interesting idea that I had not thought of, which was the use of the Timepix detector for realtime diagnosis of the beam energy. Currently, there is no direct way of measuring electron beam energy in medical linear accelerators. Instead we use indirect methods, such as the depth-dose profile of the resulting X-rays in water.”

With regards to the next steps, the team still has simulation work to do to find the optimal configuration for the accelerator generating the X-ray beam. In parallel, there will be the need to validate the simulation through detection measurements of the beam.

As Salime outlined: “At RadiaBeam we are in constant production of linear accelerators for medical and industrial applications. It would be quite easy for us to try out new X-ray converter geometries on one of our existing accelerators, so an experiment could be accomplished in just a few months. However, we probably would want to iterate between experiment and simulations a few times. ”

An interesting challenge ahead that will look familiar to any entrepreneurs trying to bring innovation out there!



Philippe Lebrun, JUAS Director
25th edition of Joint Universities Accelerator School
13 Mar 2018

25th edition of Joint Universities Accelerator School

Twenty-five years of training accelerator scientists and going from strength to strength

Isabel Bejar Alonso (CERN)
QUACO Phase-3 starts now
10 Dec 2018

QUACO Phase-3 starts now

Following the competitive tender for phase-3, only two solutions could be awarded a work order. Three were evaluated and considered promising.

Editorial Team
Accelerating News Readers Survey
25 Mar 2019

Accelerating News Readers Survey

With this survey we are trying to learn more about our audience and how we can improve in the future. It should take less than 5 minutes. Thank you!

Education for innovation in Hilumi and FCC

HiLumi and FCC organised their first innovation course in collaboration with IdeaSquare and CERN Knowledge Transfer (KT) on 31 January and 1 February, 2018. Twenty students and young professionals from HiLumi and FCC interested in innovation and entrepreneurship participated in the two-day course and will continue working on their ideas for a few weeks. The purpose of the induction session was twofold: to let the participants explore potential ways to apply their knowledge and skills outside the CERN context, and to familiarize them with established innovation practices. The aim was to inspire students/young professionals to think “outside the box” and teach them basic skills on how to think like an innovator and an entrepreneur thus offering them new skills and competences, which they may find useful later on in their careers. “It has been a real pleasure to host the course at IdeaSquare”, says Markus Nordberg who is a recognised expert in open innovation and manages other innovation courses such as the Challenge Based Innovation CBI.

During the two days, the participants gained insight into how to deliver innovation, assess knowledge transfer opportunities and identify different applications of CERN technologies from presentations given by the IdeaSquare team and distinguished visiting presenters. Harri Toivonen from Aalto University introduced the participants to the design thinking philosophy, opening minds on how to approach challenges with no clear solution. Giovanni Anelli from KT demonstrated how CERN technologies have turned into applications that benefit society in sectors such as medicine, safety and environment. He also put a focus on the innovation opportunities offered by KT. Philipp Topic from Vienna University of Economics and Business introduced Technological Competence Leveraging, a systematic, proactive and crowdsourcing-based method to identify new application fields for technologies. Marcello Losasso presented the QUACO project as a case study of a Pre-Commercial Procurement initiative, a mechanism that boosts innovation and attracts potential industrial partners. Creating a network of like-minded people is also a key to success in innovation and this is why Laure Esteveny presented the CERN Alumni activities and IdeaSquare and KT student programs were presented to open up ideas on how to reach to peers.

The participants were encouraged to bring their own innovation topics to the course, and if so had the chance to display them in an elevator pitch on both days. Using the knowledge and tools introduced during the course, the participants then worked in four groups, developing and refining their ideas. During the group sessions, some ideas were dropped, and the groups  developed detailed presentations for 10 ideas they most believed in, to defend their views. At the end of the second day, three ideas were subsequently voted as most promising and three groups were put in place to further refine and work on them. At the time of publication of this article each group is developing their ideas with expert support.

The results will be presented in an award ceremony to an invited audience on 21 March. “It has been extremely impressive how the participants have used the information received during the course”, says Isabel Bejar Alonso, organizer of the course. “From the first presentation to the last there has been a complete revolution moving from vague ideas to credible proposals.” This innovation course has demonstrated how important it is for young researchers to see that entrepreneurship can be an option for their careers. Even more so as they realised that there is no real frontier between industrial innovation and the work they do every day.


Header image: The participants refined their ideas during group workshops in the HiLumi FCC Innovation course at IdeaSquare (photo by Isabel Bejar Alonso, CERN)  

Daniela Antonio
How many points to direct the particle beam to collision?
20 Oct 2019

How many points to direct the particle beam to collision?

Developed specifically for the CERN Open Days, the activity aimed to explain the role of power converters in particle accelerators in a fun way.

Panagiotis Charitos (CERN)
Science transcends boundaries
8 Dec 2017

Science transcends boundaries

European and Japanese collaboration in the framework of the FCC study was highlighted during Science Agora 2017

Panos Charitos (CERN)
ISOLDE's new solenoid spectrometer
21 Mar 2019

ISOLDE's new solenoid spectrometer

Novel experiments to study the evolution of nuclear structure, exotic nuclear shapes and the formation of elements made possible with ISOLDE's new solenoid spectrometer.