The Electron-Ion Collider

The Electron-Ion Collider is a proposed machine for delving deeper than ever before into the building blocks of matter, so that we may better understand the matter within us and its role in the universe around us..

about

Probing Matter with an Electron-Ion Collider.
An Electron-Ion Collider (EIC) would open a new window through which we can study and understand the matter.

Everything that we can see in our vast universe is made up of atoms, with protons and neutrons at their core. Protons and neutrons form the nuclei of atoms, which make up the bulk of the mass of everything we see in the universe today, from stars to planets to people. 

Compared to the complexity that we observe in our world, protons and neutrons may seem like simple objects, but they aren’t. Inside them is a teeming microcosm of quarks and glue-like gluons whose ethereal interactions help establish their essential properties. And while we know the fundamental constituents of protons and neutrons are quarks and gluons, we know little about how these tiniest building blocks are arranged and interact.

To probe the intricacies of these inner microcosms, nuclear physicists hope to build an Electron-Ion Collider (EIC) —a machine that would open a new window through which we can study and understand the matter within us and its role in the universe around us.

goals

An Electron-Ion Collider would be a first-of-its-kind research machine. Building it would push the limits of our knowledge of accelerator science, particle detector design, high-performance computing and more. All of this effort would enable research into these topics and potentially others we have yet to discover.

An Electron-Ion Collider will take three-dimensional precision snapshots of the internal structure of protons and atomic nuclei.
An EIC would reveal how the teeming quarks and gluons inside the proton combine their spins to generate the proton’s overall spin.
A unique form of matter, the color glass condensate, may be produced for study for the first time by an EIC, providing deeper insight into gluons and their interactions.
Experiments at an EIC would cast fresh light on the mystery of why quarks or gluons can never be observed in isolation but must remain confined within protons and nuclei.
The Electron-Ion Collider would be a novel tool for exploring matter’s inner world, providing the ultimate picture of protons and nuclei at their deepest level.

design

The EIC would consist of two intersecting accelerators, one producing an intense beam of electrons, the other a beam of either protons or heavier atomic nuclei, which are then steered into head-on collisions.
Two proposed designs, one at Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility and one at Brookhaven National Laboratory, make use of existing infrastructure at each Laboratory. Building the EIC will require the same core expertise that led to the unique polarized electron beam properties of the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF) at Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility and the versatility of the polarized proton and heavy ion beams at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory. Each design approach would require the development of innovative accelerator and detector technologies.
Jefferson Lab Electron-Ion Collider, JLEIC

This design would capitalize on the lab’s existing Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility and on its expertise in designing and building particle accelerators. The essential new elements of an EIC facility at Jefferson Lab would include an electron storage ring and an entirely new, modern ion acceleration and storage complex that would be constructed in a civil engineering project. Learn more about this design here.

Brookhaven Lab eRHIC

This design would make use of the existing ion sources, pre-accelerator chain, superconducting magnet ion storage ring, and other infrastructure of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC). A new electron source and electron accelerator and storage rings would be added inside the RHIC tunnel so that interactions (collisions) can take place at points where the stored ion and electron beams cross (up to three detectors). Learn more about this design here.

benefits

An Electron-Ion Collider will trigger technological breakthroughs that have broad-ranging impacts on human health and national challenges.

Beyond sparking scientific discoveries in a new frontier of fundamental physics, an Electron-Ion Collider will trigger technological breakthroughs that have broad-ranging impacts on human health and national challenges.

Throughout history, technological innovations have sprung from our quest to gain a deeper understanding of matter and fundamental forces. Such technologies include the GPS that allows you to use your smartphone to lead you to a new destination, the microelectronics that power activity trackers that you can wear on your finger, and radiological techniques that are now being used to diagnose and treat disease.

status

Detailed information about the efforts toward an EIC can be found in a report issued in 2015 by the Nuclear Science Advisory Committee (NSAC), which recommended an EIC in its Long Range Plan as the highest priority for new facility construction. Additionally, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine issued a report on the science that would be made possible by an EIC in 2018, “An Assessment of U.S.-Based Electron-Ion Collider Science.”

More than 800 physicists from more than 175 institutions are working to realize the EIC.

news

A vibrant community of physicists is working to tackle the technological challenges of designing and building a U.S.-based EIC, drawing on the expertise and infrastructure at Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility. An EIC User Group of more than 800 physicists from more than 175 institutions in 30 countries is working with these laboratories to realize the EIC.