LANSCE has unique capabilities for science and national security – Los Alamos Reporter

Inspection of the proton beam drift tube LINAC section at LANSCE. Photo courtesy of LANL

LANL news release

In early June 1972, the world’s most powerful proton beam was emitted through a vacuum tank approximately 1 mile from the new Los Alamos Meson Physical Facility, now known as the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center (LANSCE). As the facility has evolved over more than 50 years, its proton beam is now being sent to five state-of-the-art experimental areas, making the Pajarito Plateau accelerator unique among its peers.

“LANSCE is unique in that many accelerators focus on a single mission,” said laboratory director Tom Mason. “Five disciplines allow us to tackle different types of complex problems throughout the scientific discipline. At LANSCE, nuclear physics and materials science research programs, as well as basic science and medical isotope programs, have been developed so far. It has become indispensable. ”

An important supply of medical isotopes

Starting with the injector system and moving at speeds slightly above 100 megaelectronvolts, the first destination for proton beams is a key facility within the Ministry of Energy’s isotope research and development and production program, with the Brookhaven National Laboratory. It is an isotope production facility that is part of the efforts of the three laboratories. Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Due to the pandemic closure of the facility in April 2020, LANSCE started the beam earlier than the normal execution schedule, closing the supply chain gap and using the isotope strontium-82 (Sr-82) for cardiac imaging. Provided an important supply of. And germanium-68 (Ge-68), used for the diagnosis of cancer.

Isotope manufacturing facilities excel in the basic science and applied engineering required to produce and purify useful isotopes that can be manufactured on a large scale on the market. In the fight against cancer, recent and current clinical trials have produced promising results with the short-lived isotope actinium 225, which irradiates cancer tumors with high-energy radiation without significant impact on surrounding tissues. The isotopes can be chemically modified to target specific cancers that produce characteristic antigens (prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, melanoma, etc.).

“Unfortunately, almost everyone is affected by cancer, themselves, or those they know and love,” said Carclector, the contact point for the Los Alamos DOE isotope program. “That’s part of the reason why Actinium 225’s workaround, especially for cancer, is so exciting. The results of clinical trials using Actinium 225 to treat late-stage prostate cancer show that it’s a horrifying disease. It suggests that it could be a fairly important way to attack. ”

New Los Alamos studies show that actinium 225 may also be effective against bacteria, especially in an era of increasing antibiotic resistance.


LANSCE researchers are using high-tech equipment to develop innovative technologies that have the potential to improve our world. Photo courtesy of LANL

Unlock science and meet mission needs

Powered by up to 800 megaelectronvolts, it can now travel at 84% of the speed of light (more than 250 million meters, or about 20 orbits of the Earth per second), sending proton beams to four more regions. I can do it.

At the ultracold neutron facility, protons are cooled to near absolute zero and about minus 460 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing us to study the basic properties of particles. Last year, the team measured the neutron lifetime most accurately to date and discovered that a single neutron lasted 877.75 seconds before it decayed. These accurate measurements can affect the search for physics beyond the Standard Model, and even dark matter can help unravel the mystery of new particles. The results also provided a better understanding of the abundance of nuclei and the formation of elements in the early universe.


In the 1970s, Parliamentarian Manuel Rougen Jr. rode a bicycle used for rapid transportation in accelerator tunnels during the construction of LAMPF. Photo courtesy of LANL

LANSCE also fulfills its national security mission and helps ensure that the country’s nuclear deterrence is safe, secure and reliable. The proton radiography user center images the interior of the explosion to generate data for the safe maintenance of deterrent weapons. This has been an integral mission since the end of the testing era and will be needed in the future. At the other user center, the Legend Center, at the end of the main proton beam, a neutron beam is generated. This allows researchers to characterize materials and characterize the microstructures needed to learn how they react under different conditions.

“Understanding the aging material, as well as its interaction with neutrons, is an important task for the physical understanding of weapons, in order to continue to ensure the safety and effectiveness of aging nuclear stockpiles.” Bob Webster, Deputy Director of Weapons, said. Lab. “Important data collected through hands-on experiments at LANSCE complements the modeling and simulation that is essential for stockpiling management.”

The benefits of that data extend beyond the national security mission. For example, at the Weapons Neutron Research facility, obtaining appropriate safety measurements of criticality (the point at which fission reactions are self-sustaining) is important data not only for major laboratory activities, but also for the large nuclear industry. Understanding the physical properties of materials, such as the effects of radiation on reactor components, helps ensure safety as civilian reactors and those running them provide zero carbon emissions energy to the grid. increase. The Weapons Neutron Research facility is the only and best facility in the United States for LANSCE to test and certify electrical devices using technologies applied to neutron beams, aeronautical electronics, vehicles, medical devices, etc. It also means that there is.


A LANSCE proton beam, nearly a mile long, sends the beam to five experimental areas. Photo courtesy of LANL

Improvements enhance functionality

LANSCE has embarked on improvements to ensure that the facility remains a leader for decades to come. This spring, the Spallation target (neutron source) at the Legende Center was upgraded, and in the process the system was redesigned to improve performance. By doing so, the Lujan Center is now able to study the kiloelectronvolt range, a new energy regime in nuclear physics. Throughout the accelerator, the team is replacing electrical components with newer and safer ones. Systems that use greenhouse gases have also been replaced in line with the lab’s broader sustainability initiatives.

“The improvements and investments we make will enable us to do better science with safer machines,” said Mike Furlanet, Director of LANSCE and Senior Director of Associates Laboratories in Physical Sciences. I am saying. “When I joined the laboratory 17 years ago, the experiments we could do now were almost unimaginable, and I’m confident that we can provide even more exciting data in the next 20 years. “

Accelerators are complex machines that require effort between more than 500 organizations, including engineers, scientists, and technicians, to maintain performance. Each of these individuals is working on the team’s goal of providing science to tackle difficult challenges, such as strengthening national security, understanding the origins of the universe, and developing medicines that help people live longer and healthier. increase. The work represents a mission that will remain unchanged for decades to come.


In 1966, Vice President Hubert Humphrey visited the Los Alamos Institute of Science to discuss the proposed Los Alamos Meson Physics Facility (LAMPF) with Institute Director Norris Bradbury and physicist Luis Rosen. Photo courtesy of LANL

Leave a Comment