The JLEIC Accelerator Complex

illustration of electron and ion beams colliding

The EIC would accelerate electrons on one side and protons or ions on the other to nearly the speed of light before slamming the two streams of particles together. These collisions would allow scientists to probe deep inside the particles that comprise the nucleus of the atom to discover the hidden workings of nature that are responsible for all visible matter.

Building an Electron-Ion Collider at Jefferson Lab would capitalize on the lab’s existing Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility and on the lab’s 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 large-scale civil engineering project.

Jefferson Lab’s Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF) is an electron accelerator with more than 15 years of experimental history. CEBAF acts like a giant microscope, providing an unprecedented view that enables scientists to “see” things a million times smaller than an atom. In the accelerator, electrons are imparted with extra energy, then steered at nearly the speed of light toward stationary targets made of atomic nuclei, such as hydrogen, helium, carbon and lead. Sophisticated detectors collect and measure the remnants of the electron-nuclei collisions. For the EIC, CEBAF would provide energetic electrons.

The ion complex for a Jefferson Lab EIC would consist of entirely new equipment designed by Jefferson Lab staff members, who have decades of experience in accelerator R&D and accelerator operations. The new ion complex would consist of sources for ions, an ion linear accelerator, a prebooster synchrotron, a large booster synchrotron, and a medium-energy collider ring with energy up to 100 GeV.

The completed EIC would create an entirely new collision dynamic. In layman’s terms, the difference in the dynamics of this “new” accelerator collision is the difference between a car crashing into a wall (speeding electrons into a stationary target), vs. a car crashing head-on into another car (speeding electrons into speeding ions). It would provide unique capabilities in the study of Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD), the theory that describes how quarks and gluons build protons, neutrons and nuclei.