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NIU physicist awarded two U.S. Department of Energy grants

November 4, 2019

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded two grants totaling $445,000 over three years to NIU physics professor Bela Erdelyi for his research on particle accelerators.

Bela Erdelyi

Erdelyi, an expert in beam physics and accelerator theory and design, will use the funding to conduct research on the optimization of existing technologies and development of new systems for electron sources and particle accelerators.

Particle accelerators produce beams of charged particles used for a variety of purposes, including in the medical field, in manufacturing and industrial processes, and in scientific exploration of the sub-atomic universe. Tens of millions of hospital patients, for example, receive accelerator-based diagnoses and therapy each year.

Particle accelerators used for such purposes are usually large, complex and expensive devices. With support from the DOE, scientists at NIU and across the country have been on a quest to develop smaller, cheaper and improved accelerators.

“Particle accelerators play a key role not just in scientific research, but also in a range of important medical, industrial and national security applications,” James Siegrist, DOE associate director of science for high energy physics, said in a recent press release. The Office of High Energy Physics within the DOE Office of Science awarded Erdelyi’s new grants.

Using large-scale computer simulations, Erdelyi’s work will explore optimization of high performance electron sources in Europe and under development at NIU, while a second project will develop theories to investigate the physics underlying a new paradigm for novel particle accelerators.

High performance computing tasks will be conducted at NIU’s Center for Research Computing and Data, where Erdelyi currently serves as acting director.

“The research’s broader impact is in the education of the next generation of accelerator scientists, which has been identified as critical in the long-term health of many scientific endeavors at accelerator facilities,” Erdelyi said. “Moreover, the coding infrastructure that will be developed will serve as a free resource for other current and future accelerator-based facilities.”

Three NIU graduate students, two in physics and one in mathematics, are already involved in the research projects, and Erdelyi expects to hire a fourth, as well as summer interns.

NIU’s Department of Physics has a long history of faculty and student research in the areas of particle-beam physics, particle accelerators technology and high-energy physics.

University faculty and students collaborate with the world’s premier accelerator laboratories, including Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in nearby Batavia, Jefferson Lab in Virginia and CERN in Europe. NIU also is home to the Northern Illinois Center for Accelerator and Detector Development (NICADD), which provides research and development opportunities nationally and internationally as well as graduate fellowships.