Established November 21, 1967 (as National Accelerator Laboratory)
Research Type Nuclear
Field of Research Particle physics
Director Piermaria J. Oddone
Address P.O. Box 500
Location Winfield Township, DuPage County / Batavia Township, Kane County, near Batavia, Illinois, USA
Telephone (630) 840 3000
Affiliations US Department of Energy
University of Chicago
Universities Research Association
Nobel Laureates Leon Lederman
Website fnal.gov
A satellite view of Fermilab. The two circular structures are the Main Injector Ring (small) and Tevatron (big).

Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), located just outside Batavia, Illinois, near Chicago, is a US Department of Energy national laboratory specializing in high-energy particle physics. As of January 1, 2007, Fermilab is operated by the Fermi Research Alliance, a joint venture of the University of Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology and the Universities Research Association (URA). Fermilab is a part of the Illinois Technology and Research Corridor.

Fermilab's Tevatron was a landmark particle accelerator; at 3.9 miles (6.3 km) in circumference, it was the world's second largest energy particle accelerator (CERN's Large Hadron Collider is 27 km in circumference), until being shut down on September 30, 2011. In 1995, both the CDF and (detectors which utilize the Tevatron) experiments announced the discovery of the top quark.

In addition to high energy collider physics, Fermilab is also host to a number of smaller fixed-target and neutrino experiments, such as MiniBooNE (Mini Booster Neutrino Experiment), SciBooNE (SciBar Booster Neutrino Experiment) and MINOS (Main Injector Neutrino Oscillation Search). The MiniBooNE detector is a 40-foot (12 m) diameter sphere which contains 800 tons of mineral oil lined with 1520 individual phototube detectors. An estimated 1 million neutrino events are recorded each year. SciBooNE is the newest neutrino experiment at Fermilab; it sits in the same neutrino beam as MiniBooNE but has fine-grained tracking capabilities. The MINOS experiment uses Fermilab's NuMI (Neutrinos at the Main Injector) beam, which is an intense beam of neutrinos that travels 455 miles (732 km) through the Earth to the Soudan Mine in Minnesota.

In the public realm, Fermilab is host to many cultural events, not only public science lectures and symposia, but classical and contemporary music concerts, folk dancing and arts galleries. Currently the site is open to all visitors from dawn to dusk who present valid photo identification.

A small herd of American bison, started at the lab's founding, lives on the grounds symbolizing Fermilab's presence on the frontier of physics and its connection to the American prairie.[1] Some fearful locals believed at first that the bison were introduced in order to serve as an alarm if and when radiation at the laboratory reached dangerous levels, but they were assured by Fermilab that this claim had no merit.[2]

Asteroid 11998 Fermilab is named in honor of the laboratory.



Robert Rathbun Wilson Hall

Weston, Illinois was a community next to Batavia voted out of existence by its village board in 1966 to provide a site for Fermilab.[3]

The laboratory was founded in 1967 as the National Accelerator Laboratory; it was renamed in honor of Enrico Fermi in 1974. The lab's first director was Robert Rathbun Wilson. Many of the unique sculptures on the site are of his creation. He is attributed as being responsible for it being finished ahead of time and under budget. The high rise laboratory building located on the site, the unique shape of which has become the symbol for Fermilab, is named in his honor, and is the center of activity on the campus.

After Wilson stepped down in 1978 to protest the lack of funding for the lab, Leon M. Lederman took on the job. It was under his guidance that the original accelerator was replaced with the Tevatron accelerator, an accelerator capable of colliding proton and an antiproton at a combined energy of 1.96 TeV. Lederman stepped down in 1988 and remains Director Emeritus. The on-site science education center was named in his honor.

From 1988 to 1998, the lab was run by John Peoples. From that time until June 30, 2005, the lab was run by Michael S. Witherell. On November 19, 2004 Piermaria Oddone, formerly of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, was announced as Fermilab's newest director. Oddone began his term as director July 1, 2005.

Fermilab continues to participate in the work in the LHC including serving as a Tier 1 site in the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid.[4]


Fermilab's accelerator rings

The first stage in the acceleration process takes place in the Cockcroft–Walton generator. It involves taking hydrogen gas and turning it into H ions by introducing it into a container lined with molybdenum electrodes: a matchbox-sized, oval-shaped cathode and a surrounding anode, separated by 1 mm and held in place by glass ceramic insulators. A magnetron is used to generate a plasma to form H near the metal surface. A 750 keV electrostatic field is applied by the Cockcroft–Walton generator, and the ions are accelerated out of the container. The next step is the linear accelerator (or linac), which accelerates the particles to 400 MeV, or about 70% of the speed of light. Right before entering the next accelerator, the H ions pass through a carbon foil, becoming H+ ions (protons).

The next step is the booster ring. The booster ring is a 468 m circumference circular accelerator that uses magnets to bend beams of protons in a circular path. The protons coming from the Linac travel around the Booster about 20,000 times in 33 milliseconds so that they repeatedly experience electric fields. With each revolution the protons pick up more energy, leaving the Booster with 8 GeV. The Main Injector is the next link in the accelerator chain. Completed in 1999, it has become Fermilab's "particle switchyard" with three functions: it accelerates protons, it delivers protons for antiproton production, and it accelerates antiprotons coming from the antiproton source. The final accelerator is the Tevatron. It is the second most powerful particle accelerator in the world (CERN's Large Hadron Collider being the most powerful). Traveling at almost the speed of light, protons and antiprotons circle the Tevatron in opposite directions. Physicists coordinate the beams so that they collide at the centers of two 5,000-ton detectors and CDF inside the Tevatron tunnel at energies of 1.96 TeV, revealing the conditions of matter in the early universe and its structure at the smallest scale.



Dr. Wilson maintained an influence over design and construction such that the aesthetic complexion of the site would not be diluted by a collection of concrete block buildings. The design of the administrative building (Wilson Hall) harks back to St. Pierre's Cathedral in Beauvais, France, and several of the buildings and sculptures within the Fermilab reservation represent various mathematical constructs as part of their structure.

The Archimedean Spiral is the defining shape of several pumping stations as well as the building housing the MINOS experiment. The reflecting pond at Wilson Hall also showcases a 32-foot-tall (9.8 m) hyperbolic obelisk, designed by Dr. Wilson. Some of the high voltage transmission lines carrying power through the laboratory's land are built to echo the Greek letter π. One can also find structural examples of the DNA double-helix spiral and a nod to the geodesic sphere.

Several large pieces of sculpture found on Fermilab and designed by Wilson include Tractricious, a free-standing arrangement of steel tubes near the Industrial Complex constructed from parts and materials recycled from the Tevatron collider, and the soaring Broken Symmetry, which greets those entering the campus via the Pine Street entrance. Crowning the Ramsey Auditorium is a representation of the Möbius strip with a diameter of more than eight feet. Also scattered about the access roads and village are a massive hydraulic press and old magnetic containment channels, all painted blue.

Gender issues at Fermilab

Fermilab won the 2006 Golden Family Award from the Society of Women Engineers. Fermilab offers equal employment; women represent more than 40% of the work force. Golden Family Award stated, "For outstanding support of family issues your facilities, your benefits, your programs, and your approach encourage balance for employees and their families [...]".[5]

There have been two purported cases of gender bias in the Fermilab workplace: the separate federal lawsuits filed by Katharine Weber and Irene Hofmann. Both formerly worked at Fermilab, and both alleged they were retaliated against after complaining of repeated episodes of sexual harassment and discrimination to the Fermilab Equity Office. A summary judgment was granted in favor of URA on both of Weber's claims. Weber filed an appeal at the end of April, 2008 and the case is still ongoing.[6][7] In 2008 a statistical study suggested gender inequities in conference presentations allocated by the laboratory to postdoctoral research scientists based at Fermilab.[8][9]

Current developments

The end of the Tevatron Run

On January 10, 2011 it was announced that the Tevatron Accelerator had failed to find additional funding to continue operation beyond the close of fiscal year 2011 (September 2011).[10] The Tevatron was shut down on September 30, 2011.

Financial situation

The Fermilab budget has been continuously below inflation over the last several years, and Fermilab failed to attract more funding sources and this resulted in reducing staff levels (by 100 in 2005).[11] The new director of the lab and the new management are working hard to bring the International Linear Collider (ILC) to Fermilab. However, the decision by Congress to fund the ILC at only a quarter of the requested $60 million significantly reduces the chances that Fermilab or any other U.S. research facility will host the ILC. Due to Fermilab's financial situation, on December 20, 2007, director Piermaria Oddone announced the planned layoffs of 10% of Fermilab's staff.

New management

On November 1, 2006, the Department of Energy announced that the Fermi Research Alliance, LLC (FRA) will manage Fermilab for five years starting January 1, 2007. The FRA is a partnership between URA and the University of Chicago. Based on its performance, the FRA may be entitled to renew this contract without competition for up to 20 years.[12]


Although Fermilab will continue to play an important role in the future of physics, the Tevatron is no longer the highest-energy collider in the world. On Nov 30, 2009 CERN's LHC circulated protons at an energy of 1.18 TeV per beam, beating the Tevatron's previous record of 0.98 TeV per beam held for 8 years. The LHC has reached 3.5 TeV per beam in 2010.[13]

New particle discovery

It was announced on September 3, 2008 that a new particle, the bottom Omega baryon (Ω
) was discovered at the DØ experiment of Fermilab. It is made up of two strange quarks and a bottom quark. This discovery not only helps to complete the "periodic table of the baryons" but also offers insight into how quarks form matter.[14]

Coded letter

On March 5, 2007 the Fermilab Office of Public Affairs received a curious letter written in code. On May 15, 2008, in an effort to crowdsource a solution, the letter was released to the public. Within a short period of time, the top and bottom sections of the letter were decoded. To date, a solution to the middle section has not been found.[15][16][17]

Bison at Fermilab

Fermilab's first director, Robert Wilson brought five American Bison, a bull and four cows in 1967. They were joined by an additional 21 provided by the Illinois Department of Conservation. Today, a herd of bison roams the campus. The herd is a popular attraction which draws many visitors.[18]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Fermilab (30 December 2005). "Safety and the Environment at Fermilab". http://www.fnal.gov/pub/about/safety/questions.html. Retrieved 2006-01-06. 
  2. ^ Questions at Fermilab
  3. ^ Fermilab. "Before Weston". http://history.fnal.gov/exhibit/weston.html. Retrieved 2009-11-25. 
  4. ^ National Science Foundation. "The US and LHC Computing". http://www.uslhc.us/The_US_and_the_LHC/Computing. Retrieved 2011-01-11. 
  5. ^ Fermilab (2006). "Jobs at Fermilab: Employer Awards". Archived from the original on January 10, 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20070110184255/http://lss.fnal.gov/employ/employer_awards.html. Retrieved 2006-01-06. 
  6. ^ Weber v. Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, 1:05-cv-05607 (US District Court, Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division 28 September 2005).
  7. ^ Hofmann v. Fermilab, 1:01-cv-08077 (US District Court, Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division 19 October 2001).
  8. ^ Brumfiel, G. (2008). "Data show extent of sexism in physics". Nature 452 (7190): 918. doi:10.1038/452918a. PMID 18441542. 
  9. ^ Towers, S. (2008). "A Case Study of Gender Bias at the Postdoctoral Level in Physics, and its Resulting Impact on the Academic Career Advancement of Females". arXiv:0804.2026 [physics.soc-ph]. 
  10. ^ Brinkman, W. F. (2011). "Letter from DOE to HEPAP announcing the denial of additional funding". http://www.fnal.gov/pub/today/Tevatron-brinkman-to-shochet.pdf. Retrieved 2011-01-11. 
  11. ^ Fermilab (2005). "Fermilab Today: Director's Corner". http://www.fnal.gov/pub/today/archive_2005/today05-03-15.html. Retrieved 2006-01-06. 
  12. ^ US Department of Energy (2006). "U.S. Department of Energy Awards Contract for Management and Operation of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory to the Fermi Research Alliance, LLC". http://www.doe.gov/news/4451.htm. Retrieved 2006-11-01. 
  13. ^ "CERN LHC sees high-energy success" (Press release). BBC News. 30 March 2010. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8593780.stm. Retrieved 2010-03-30. 
  14. ^ "Fermilab physicists discover "doubly strange" particle". Fermilab. 9 September 2008. http://www.fnal.gov/pub/presspass/press_releases/Dzero_Omega-sub-b.html. 
  15. ^ Manier, Jeremy (2008-07-11). "Can you crack this code?". Chicago Tribune. http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/chicagotribune/access/1508567981.html?dids=1508567981:1508567981&FMT=ABS. 
  16. ^ "Fermilab Today". 2008-05-20. http://www.fnal.gov/pub/today/archive_2008/today08-05-20.html. 
  17. ^ "Code crackers wanted!". 2008-05-08. http://www.symmetrymagazine.org/breaking/2008/05/15/code-crackers-wanted/. 
  18. ^ http://www.fnal.gov/pub/about/campus/ecology/wildlife/bison.html

External links

Coordinates: 41°49′55″N 88°15′26″W / 41.83194°N 88.25722°W / 41.83194; -88.25722

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