Russia hastily completes the construction of a huge collider. Why Europe doesn't like it, by Vladislav Strekopytov for RIANOVOSTI. 04.14.2023.
The construction of the NICA accelerator complex is nearing completion at the site of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR). It is called the "little brother" of the Large Hadron Collider. About the largest Russian installation of the mega-science level and what tasks it will have to solve - in the material of RIA Novosti.
Continuing the tradition
In the mid-1950s, almost simultaneously, two major scientific centers for studying the fundamental properties of matter appeared in the world: CERN in Switzerland and JINR in the USSR. The founders of the latter were 13 states, mainly representatives of the socialist camp.
Today JINR unites 19 member countries. It is the only international intergovernmental scientific organization in Russia registered by the UN. The institute accounts for about half of the achievements in the field of nuclear physics made in the territory of the former USSR over the past 70 years.
Ten new elements of the periodic table were discovered here, including moscovium (atomic number 115), dubnium (105), oganesson (118) and flerovium (114). They were named after the Moscow region and the city of Dubna, Russian scientists Yuri Oganesyan, scientific director of the Laboratory of Nuclear Reactions at JINR, and Georgy Flerov, one of the founders of the institute.
In 1957, the most powerful particle accelerator in the world at that time, the synchrophasotron, was launched in Dubna, capable of accelerating protons to a record energy of 10 GeV (ten billion electron volts).
The superconducting proton and heavy ion collider NICA (Nuclotron-based Ion Collider fAcility) is the direct successor of this unique facility. The synchrophasotron was shut down in 2002, and its huge magnetic guide, or, as scientists say, the yoke of a magnet, was used to build one of the stages of the NICA complex.
Better than BAK
According to modern theoretical concepts, our Universe was born about 14 billion years ago during the Big Bang. In the first microsecond after this event, elementary particles - quarks - arose. As the medium decompressed, they united into hadrons - protons and neutrons, from which the nuclei of atoms were then formed.
Inside hadrons, quarks are held together by special particles of strong interaction - gluons (from the English glue - glue). Physicists believe that before the advent of hadrons, the medium was so dense that quarks and gluons did not form any structures, and matter existed in the form of quark-gluon plasma. Its temperature was trillions of degrees. The temperature and density gradually dropped, and bound states of matter began to appear.
Under what conditions the phase transition from the quark-gluon to the nuclear form of the existence of matter occurred, scientists do not know. This is one of the main questions of modern physics. It is assumed that if two high-energy ion beams are directed at each other, a "mixed phase" will appear at the place of their collision - a transition state between the quark-gluon plasma and hadronic matter. It is this experiment that they want to conduct at the NICA collider. Recreating the original state of matter should shed light on how all material objects in the universe were formed.
At CERN, the Large Hadron Collider is also studying quark-gluon plasma. This is what the ALICE detector does. He analyzes the results of the collision of heavy ions, but cannot fix the moment of the phase transition - the huge accelerating power of the LHC interferes. The particles collide with such energy that the products of the collision scatter to the sides very quickly. The enormous density of matter necessary for the study of quark-gluon plasma cannot be maintained for any appreciable time. Similar experiments are being carried out at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in the United States - also without an obvious result so far.
Compared to its "big brothers", the NICA collider is less powerful. If in the ALICE experiment ions are accelerated to an energy of 2.76 TeV, then here, according to the plan, heavy nuclei will be accelerated to 4.5 GeV, protons to 12.6 GeV. But it is capable of holding the maximum plasma density - about 20 billion tons per cubic centimeter. This is comparable to the density of neutron stars. Therefore, in order to reconstruct under laboratory conditions the special state of matter in which the Universe was in the first moments after the Big Bang, the accelerator in Dubna is even better suited than the LHC.
“Theorists have predicted many phase transitions inside this primary substance,” says Anatoly Sidorin, Deputy Head of the Accelerator Department of the Laboratory of High Energy Physics at JINR. “They will be studied at our collider. sizes of colliding nuclei.
How NICA works
The NICA complex is a cascade consisting of two linear accelerators that act as sources of particles (heavy and light ions), two cyclic accelerators - a booster and a Nuclotron, which gradually accelerate almost to the speed of light, and, in fact, a collider with two detectors that detect collisions.
“First, the particles are brought in a linear accelerator to a small energy - about 20 percent of the speed of light,” explains Sidorin. “After that, the beam is accelerated in a booster by a high-frequency electric field. In about three seconds, it gains energy corresponding to 60 percent of the speed of light. The remaining 40 percent gets it in the Nuclotron".
The linear heavy ion accelerator and two cyclic stages are ready. Engineering work is being completed in the collider building. By the end of the year, the assembly of all magnets will be completed, and commissioning will be carried out. The first collisions should receive at the beginning of 2024. The main analytical unit of the complex, the multi-purpose detector MPD (Multi-Purpose Detector), is also in a high degree of readiness.
“It will measure all the main parameters necessary to understand the ongoing processes,” says Sergey Merts, a leading researcher at the Laboratory of High Energy Physics at JINR. “The second, the SPD detector, or the spin physics detector, will be launched later, approximately by 2030. Its task — to study collisions of polarized protons, deuterons, neutrons, their spin structure".
See with my own eyes
In addition to fundamental projects, many practical experiments are already being implemented at the NICA complex. Now, for example, microcircuits intended for operation in space are being tested there. Cosmic rays contain heavy ions, and you need to understand how the electronics of the devices will react to them. They also study the effect of radiation on the human body and biological objects.
In between cycles of collisions, the accelerator plans to conduct research in the field of life sciences, materials science, and nuclear energy.
"Over the past eight years, a huge amount of technologies and developments that were needed for NICA have entered the industry, commercial enterprises and are already improving the quality of our lives," JINR Director, Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences Grigory Trubnikov said at a meeting with journalists. security and transportation. Facial recognition cameras came from particle physics, from our detectors."
The NICA complex also has an educational function. As a rule, it is very difficult for an ordinary person to get to such closed objects. But now there is such an opportunity. One of the directions of the Decade of Science and Technology in Russia (from 2022 to 2031) was the Popular Science Tourism initiative.
In February 2023, the first tour to Dubna took place. Schoolchildren of the eighth-tenth grades from Moscow, accompanied by their teachers, came to the science city to get acquainted with JINR and its scientific facilities and research. And also - learn more about nuclear physics. Such excursions are planned to be held regularly.
The construction of the NICA collider is being implemented as part of the national project "Science and Universities".