Reply to post: capacitors exploded? we had an exploding antimatter target

'The capacitors exploded, showering the lab in flaming confetti'

David Shaw

capacitors exploded? we had an exploding antimatter target

Im not sure if this is 'entertaining', but it did contain a 'Who, me?' moment. I said 'Yes'

The excellent University of Sheffield designed us an antimatter production rod, a target for the conversion of incoming pulses of GeV protons, into high energy pbars. The antimatter fell out of the back of the target, in a Pratchetian magic way, as statistically it was able to. I daren't use the word quantum, as most sentences which use the 'Q' word are wrong. We of course also got a lot of electrons, positrons, neutrons and positive and negative pions, kaons and muons, which was lovely, but not wanted in the pbar phase space.

The pbar target then was basically a solid rod of copper (size of a pencil), using magnetic focussing to self-contain the GeVp to allow maximum matter/energy/matter interaction magic, and a bit of cooling.

This focussing current was around 320000A pulsed(*), at some hundreds of volts. It worked well, low p/-p efficiency , but we were able to make and store more antimatter than had existed since the big one, quite a while ago. (*other Lithium targets take 1 MA pulses, @ ~6Hz)

One day, something didn't go very well, I never found out what, maybe a UPS tripped?, the Norsk Data computerised interlock system did manage to dump the incoming 26GeV pulses and switch everything off, but still the room and all the activated engineering inside it burned. Some heroes, as they do, ran towards it & put the 'nuke fire' out.

I was 'volunteered' into the second response team, as were the other twenty engineers on the un-named project, we were lined up by age - those childless were moved to the lower bias, and then we went in for an annual rad dose in my case I was painting everything with super sticky paint for around 6 minutes to get my dose. Senior colleagues took much more. Our WTF alarms were screaming all the time. We stabilised the errant activated BeO etc dust/soot. Think Wii-U Splatoon, we were the glow-in-the-dark squids.

Science started again after about a month. I salute Eifionydd who led the team and made the show go on.

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