The new UK particle accelerator VELA (Versatile Electron Linear Accelerator) has achieved a significant electron acceleration milestone, which heralds exciting new opportunities for industry to apply the latest particle accelerator technology to its most critical commercial challenges.
In August 2011, Prime Minister David Cameron announced a £2.5m investment into the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Daresbury Laboratory for accelerator technology developments, as part of a series of investments across the wider Sci-Tech Daresbury Campus. VELA’s unique electron beam characteristics, coupled with its exceptional repeatability and flexibility, make it ideal for applications development across a broad range of key market sectors; everything from seeing through aircraft luggage and developing more effective hospital radiotherapy machines, to shrink-wrapping cable bundles and curing ink.
On the 5th of April 2013 VELA’s first beam of electrons was successfully accelerated and captured, making it the latest innovative particle accelerator from the Science and Technology Facilities Councils Daresbury Laboratory in Cheshire. VELA has been purpose-designed to assist industry in bridging the gap between prototypes and market ready products through the use of charged particle beams. This first successful demonstration of VELA means that it is now expected to be ready for commercial and research use in Summer 2013 with the first commercial users already booked.
“VELA has huge potential for the development of novel technologies across many sectors, such as security, healthcare and manufacturing. As the facility becomes operational, we look forward to realising the impact of these technological advances for the benefit of UK industry,” said Professor Susan Smith, Director of the Accelerator Science and Technology Centre (ASTeC), following the achievement of this significant milestone. “A lot of hard work has gone into the development of VELA, and it’s great to see it starting to pay off.”
Accelerators pervade many aspects of modern life: every year, £340 billion of end products are produced, sterilized or examined using industrial accelerators worldwide. Therefore it is important for UK industry to have access to such facilities. To this end the VELA development has been backed by three major commercial partners – Siemens , Rapiscan and e2v and over 80 companies ranging from blue-chips to SMEs have supported its construction. Strathclyde University has also collaborated with STFC to develop the VELA facility in order to demonstrate the operating performance of an advanced electron beam injector for laser-wakefield accelerator applications.
Accelerators are also used extensively in hospitals for cancer therapy. Technological advances which make accelerators more compact and cheaper to operate will only increase their industrial applicability – resulting in new opportunities for high-value manufacturing and a significant economic impact across a breadth of sectors.
The accelerator facilities and expertise within STFC are positioning the UK to unlock the potential of these technological advances for the benefit of UK industry and the national economy.