JLab Community Mourns Death of Sr. Accelerator Physicist Larry Phillips

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Sr. Accelerator Physicist Larry Phillips

The Jefferson Lab community mourns the passing of Dr. Larry Phillips (H. Lawrence Phillips), who has held a Senior Accelerator Physicist position at Jefferson Lab since 1986. He passed away on Sept. 30, 2017.

The principle strength that Larry brought to his work at JLab was that he considered technical application material challenges (which are rather common in the development of accelerator technology) to be merely physics puzzles that had many different viable solutions. “Just analyze the physics and then tailor the solution, easy” – he would say. He was cut from the general experimental physicist cloth that welcomes with optimism new puzzles as fresh opportunities to develop improved understandings that could then be brought to bear in creative, targeted solutions.

After undergraduate training in physics at Rutgers, Larry worked for Sperry in the electronic vacuum tube industry then earned his Ph.D. at Stevens Institute of Technology under Prof. Hans Meissner. After a postdoc appointment at the University of Karlsruhe, in 1972 Larry accepted a position at Cornell University in the accelerator development team lead by Maury Tigner. He was responsible for finding very cost-effective and novel solutions for the integrated beamline and vacuum system of the CESR electron storage ring.

Once CESR was in operation, the team turned its attention to the development of an SRF (Superconducting Radio Frequency) cavity system that was to be the basis of a large collider proposed for construction at Cornell. Although the high energy physics research went to the SLC at SLAC, the 5-cell niobium cavities developed and tested for that project were later adopted for use in CEBAF. Larry compiled the reference documentation that was used to transfer the technology to fabricate those cavities to industry. He was the first member of the SRF team to relocate to Virginia to build CEBAF.

Larry was also responsible for the ceramic waveguide windows that couple rf power from each klystron into the beamline vacuum envelope. He conceived and co-invented a novel superconducting rf pickup probe that ensures beam stability in CEBAF and was adapted for use throughout the European XFEL and LCLS-II. Always happy to be a problem-solver, Larry regularly contributed sound physical insight to the untangling of perplexing phenomena brought to his attention by colleagues throughout the JLab community.

Numerous more junior staff credit him with coaching them through solutions to problems in cryogenics, vacuum, rf, brazing, electron beam welding, cleaning, and novel materials circumstances. Most recently, Larry was investing his attention into the development of high-performance thin film superconducting materials that many believe will eventually supplant the use of bulk niobium in accelerator applications.

Larry served as advisor to 10 different Ph.D. projects undertaken in SRF at JLab. Just this past March these students organized a retrospective appreciative event at the lab on the occasion of his 80th birthday. We will miss his wealth of experience, physical insight, and never-ending optimism.

Larry is survived by his wife and three children, who plan a private memorial event.

Condolences may be addressed to Larry's wife, Liping Liu at:

9160 Stump Point Rd.
Hayes, VA 23072-4603