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. Research on the technologies needed to make this machine a reality is already pushing the evolution of magnets and other particle accelerator components.
Some of these advances could lead to energy-efficient accelerators, thereby dramatically shrinking the size and operating costs of accelerators used across science and industry for example, to make and test computer chips; to deliver energetic particle beams to zap cancer cells; to study and design improved sustainable energy technologies such as solar cells, batteries, and catalysts; and to develop new kinds of drugs and other medical treatments. New methods of particle detection developed for an EIC could also lead to advances in medical imaging and national security.
In truth, it’s nearly impossible to predict what will come from the knowledge gained from an EIC. History shows that applications springing from a deeper understanding of matter and fundamental forces things like GPS, microelectronics, and radiological techniques for diagnosing and treating disease often emerge many years after the foundational physics discoveries that make them possible.
But one thing is certain: Building the experiments that inspire and train the next generation of scientific explorers is essential for maintaining U.S. leadership in nuclear science and for developing the high-tech workforce needed to address some of our nation’s deepest challenges.