Three UCLA faculty members — physics professors Pietro Musumeci and James Rosenzweig, and adjunct physics professor William Barletta — are participating in a new, cutting-edge National Science Foundation-funded Center for Bright Beams. UCLA will receive nearly $1.6 million over five years and will conduct beam generation and beam dynamics research. UCLA undergraduate and graduate students will have an opportunity to participate in the center’s research. 

The center’s work will focus on particle accelerators, which are important scientific tools that use beams of charged particles to investigate particle physics. The center's research goal is to increase the intensity (brightness) of charged particle beams by two orders of magnitude (roughly 100 times more intense) while decreasing the cost of key accelerator technologies. Improvements in accelerator performance, said Musumeci, could lead to breakthrough advances in medical, industrial and scientific applications of particle accelerators. 

UCLA will benefit through collaboration with colleagues from other disciplines, including scientists from Cornell University, the University of Chicago, Chicago State University, the University of Florida, the University of Maryland, Brigham Young University, Morehouse College, Clark Atlanta University, the University of Toronto, the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory═ż and TRIUMF (Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics and accelerator-based science). An example of the interdisciplinary nature of the center activities is the upcoming workshop on mathematical methods for accelerators which will be held at UCLA’s Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics in January.

Professor James Rosenzweig

UCLA has been a national leader in high-brightness beam physics for many years, realizing early on that only the development of electron beams with unprecedented characteristics would enable revolutionary scientific instruments such as the X-ray free-electron laser and ultra-fast electron diffraction and microscopy. This award builds on previous funding that Musumeci was awarded by the NSF Accelerator Science program in 2014-2015 to develop a research program in high brightness beam sources. 

The Center for Bright Beams is one of four new NSF science and technology centers announced on Sept. 25. The centers conduct “innovative, potentially transformative, complex research and education projects” involving world-class research through partnerships among academic universities and industrial organizations in important areas of basic research, the centers stated. “They have catalyzed breakthroughs, built bridges of exchange with industry, spun off new technologies and businesses, and trained young scientists and engineers.”

“From deepening our understanding of intelligence, to developing energy-efficient electronics and next-generation polymers, NSF’s Science and Technology Centers have stood at the forefront of discovery and innovation,” said Suzi Iacono, head of the NSF Office of Integrative Activities. “The program’s history sets high expectations for these newly awarded partnerships, and I’m pleased to see recipients poised to continue that legacy.”