University of Regina researchers complete milestone in major international physics project

News Release Release Date: March 23, 2012 11:35 a.m.

Researchers from the University of Regina and the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab) in the United States, along with provincial and federal government representatives celebrated the completion of a significant milestone today in the international physics project called GlueX.

Researchers in this experiment are looking to answer one of the most fundamental questions in science today: Why does matter stay together? University of Regina researchers have developed, constructed and recently delivered the largest and one of the most critical components of the project – the $9 million barrel calorimeter (BCAL), which will be installed in Jefferson Lab’s Hall D and used to study the interaction of quarks, the basic building blocks of matter, in the GlueX project.

The United States Department of Energy (US DOE) has classified the GlueX project as a Discovery Potential experiment meaning that it has Nobel Prize-winning potential.

"International collaboration by the best scientific and technical minds is a hallmark of successful research projects in nuclear science which create new knowledge and technical innovation. The barrel calorimeter designed and built by scientists, engineers, and students at the University of Regina for the Hall D research program at Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility is a marvelous example of how researchers from around the world are working together to discover, explore, and understand the nature and inner structure of protons and neutrons inside the cores of atoms and to search for evidence of new science beyond our present understanding,” said Dr. Timothy Hallman, Associate Director for Nuclear Physics in the DOE Office of Science. “We look forward to continued collaboration with the University of Regina and all our international partners in carrying forward this groundbreaking effort."

“Our government is committed to promoting a culture of knowledge and innovation,” said Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre Member of Parliament Tom Lukiwski. “Today we celebrate an innovative Canadian-made device that will help uncover what binds matter together. The Government of Canada is proud to support the development of this device and the GlueX project.”

“On behalf of the Government of Saskatchewan, I would like to commend the research team at the University of Regina for their work on the GlueX project that will set new milestones in the area of international physics,” Advanced Education, Employment and Immigration Minister Rob Norris said. “This leading-edge work supports our Government’s vision for a research and innovation driven knowledge-economy.”

Approximately 60 students and researchers at the University of Regina have contributed to the GlueX project by developing and constructing BCAL.

“Strong support from federal, provincial and American governments has helped to create a world-class physics research group on the Prairies, and it is exciting that the University of Regina is playing a major role in it,” said Vianne Timmons, President and Vice-Chancellor at the University of Regina. “As a result of our participation in GlueX, University of Regina faculty members are having an international impact through their work, and just as importantly, our students, who are the next generation of researchers, are gaining first-hand experience in a major international physics project.”

BCAL consists of 48 modules made of layers of lead and over 750,000 optic fibres, which channel light along their 3.9m length to detectors that amplify the light so it can be digitized and measured. The completed modules have been sent to Jefferson Lab in Newport News, Virginia, where various components of the entire GlueX project are being constructed so that the experiment can begin in 2015.

"When the project started, we expected that the barrel calorimeter would take the longest of any piece of equipment to be manufactured. Due to the hard work, diligence and good project management by a large number of people at Regina and Jefferson Lab, the barrel calorimeter is actually the first detector fabrication to be completed," said Claus Rode, the project manager for the 12 GeV Upgrade at Jefferson Lab.

"We undertook research and development (R&D) for the BCAL in 1999, importing and eventually improving the process of calorimeter construction. Our success resulted in the University winning the competitive bidding process and securing the contract to build BCAL in Regina," said Zisis Papandreou, GlueX researcher at the University of Regina. “Our leading-role participation in such a large international project has put the University firmly on the subatomic physics map. As an alumnus of the University of Regina and a native of Saskatchewan, this makes me especially happy and proud."

Already GlueX researchers Papandreou and George Lolos at the University of Regina are seeing practical applications as a result of their R&D in this project.

“In science, often we have to solve a specific problem that turns out to have wide and practical applications beyond the original intention”, said Lolos. “For the BCAL, we had to develop a new light sensor and this breakthrough technology has helped to push industry in the development of a new generation of light detectors, which is being used in hospitals in MRI machines to increase the quality of images produced.”

Regina businesses are also experiencing economic benefits from the GlueX project. Modules for the barrel calorimeter were constructed in Regina in collaboration with three local companies, including Ross Machine Shop, creating economic and technical benefits for the local economy.

Jefferson Lab is managed and operated for the United States Department of Energy's Office of Science by Jefferson Science Associates, LLC, a joint venture between Southeastern Universities Research Association, Inc. and CSC Applied Technologies, LLC.

The Southeastern Universities Research Association, Inc. in the United States is a consortium of more than 60 universities that propelled Jefferson Lab into the forefront of both nuclear/hadronic physics and superconducting radiofrequency technologies. The University of Regina is the first university outside the United States to become part of this elite group of universities.