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Superconducting Particle Accelerator Forum of America

What is Superconducting Radio Frequency (SCRF) Accelerator Technology?

The next generation of high power particle accelerators being developed for scientific applications are incorporating superconducting radio frequency (SCRF) technology into their design and fabrication. This technology greatly increases the energy per unit of length of the accelerating components of accelerators resulting in more powerful and smaller machines. While the scientific community has taken the lead and adopted SCRF into discovery science programs, the technology is evolving into other applications as it matures and industry across the globe gains experience in its development and manufacturing. Programs in various stages of design and development in the U.S. include the following activities:

How do superconducting cavities work?

A voltage generator fills each hollow structure with an electric field. The voltage of the field changes from plus to minus with a certain frequency: a radio frequency, or RF. Charged particles feel the force of the electric field, and if the cavity is arranged correctly, accelerate them. Build the cavity out of a superconductor, such as niobium, and chill it to near absolute zero, and you have a “superconducting RF cavity.” SCRF cavities conduct electric current with extremely small loss of energy, which means that almost all the electrical energy goes into accelerating the beam, rather than into heating up the accelerating structures themselves. The Quality factor (or Q) of a cavity is a measure of how much energy the cavity stores divided by how much it loses on each oscillation of the RF electric field.