Possible benefits from ILC technology

The ILC has the potential to bring technological benefits to many different areas. Here are examples of a some of those areas.

Medicine

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Computer Tomography of Human Head. Image: Fermilab Visual Media Services

Positron emission tomography (PET), a product of physics research into antimatter, has become an essential medical diagnostics tool, allowing previously unattainable views of chemical processes within live organs. Proton therapy is a powerful treatment method delivering a concentrated, targeted dose of protons precisely to the site of a tumour. Those treatments, however, currently need heavy and costly equipment. The ILC's new superconducting RF accelerating technologies make it possible to downsize the equipment and reduce its power consumption. Radiation therapy could become more focused and thus less damaging to healthy tissue by synchronising to the patient's breathing cycle. The superconducting technology could be adapted to produce monochromatic X-rays for medical diagnoses and treatment, enabling radically new probes of biological processes and tissue protein structure, and help develop new medicines.

Computing

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View of a particle physics computing centre. Image: CERN

The data transfer rates from experiments like those at the ILC and the Large Hadron Collider (particle physics' current big adventure) are enormous – comparable to those for all the world's telecommunications put together. The latest computer and communications technologies and the advanced Grid data flow management software developed by particle physicists are essential to cope with the demands, but these now extend more broadly. The MammoGrid database developed in European laboratories distributes mammogram information among participating doctors and hospitals. A repository with 30,000 mammograms is now accessible, helping save lives.

Environment

Superconducting technology could produce intense gamma rays to characterise the composition of nuclear waste. With this knowledge, high intensity neutron beams can be tailored to turn the waste into harmless stable nuclei. An Asian collaboration working in Japan is developing this potential. ILC radiofrequency power systems could enable remote chemical analyses of environmental hazards. Monitoring technologies for precise beam control could be used as a new early warning system for seismic activity.

Tools for the future

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Gamma-ray image of a truck

The challenges of a new science project can greatly enhance many different industrial processes, thus driving technological development and the economy. For example, the tiny particle beams of the ILC need constant monitoring and fast, precise corrections. Tools developed for this purpose will help design very highly integrated electron circuit fabrication methods, which will be a major boost to many industrial processes and products at the nanometre scale. PCs could become more compact and lightweight thanks to improved technologies for electron beam lithography. Techniques originally used to give the accelerator's cavities their exquisite polish could lead to cheaper, better understood technologies for the metals industry. The expertise gained in producing 16,000 superconducting cavities and all the parts that drive them is likely to enhance superconducting applications in general. The electron sources developed for the ILC could enable new electron microscopes that would revolutionise the magnetic disk industry. Even customs officers' daily work may benefit from particle physics: with the help of detector technologies developed for particle collisions, cargo containers could be scrutinised very efficiently.

ILC Technology and other sciences

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Protein structure imaged by X-ray scattering at a synchrotron accelerator. Image: SLAC

Superconducting technology should advance work on Energy Recovery Linacs (ERLs), permitting substantial savings in size and cost. The ERLs will significantly expand the capabilities for studies in nuclear science, materials science, chemistry, structural biology and the environment. The first Free-Electron Lasers (FELs) now being built in the US, Japan and Germany are based directly upon linear collider research. Light sources have brought important advances within many sciences over the past few decades leading to many applications. For example, researchers at the Advanced Light Source in the US solved the structure of the avian flu virus and analysed its specificity to human receptors. The ILC technology can also be applied to the acceleration of protons and nuclei. Proton accelerators for intense spallation neutron sources provide a wide range of studies on biological properties. Numerous applications can also be found in material science, with direct implication on everyday life: medical implants, corrosion control, lighter airplanes and many more.

People and skills

Over the past four decades, particle physics experiments have become increasingly international. Large collaborations with scientists from around the globe gather to share their expertise and their data. A key benefit from these collaborations is the development of close cooperative working relationships and mutual trust, which may influence the relationships among nations in the long run when the scientists occupy important positions in their home countries. A much more immediate effect, however, is the diffusion of highly qualified and innovative scientists and engineers into the medical, industrial and commercial sectors of society, bringing new ideas and talent to a broad range of problems. This 'technology transfer of people' has tremendous impact on society generally. Particle physics has always played an important role in capturing the interest of young people and encouraging them to seek careers in science and technology. The workforce of the future, equipped with the creativity and perseverance to tackle and solve unique and challenging problems, is developing new acceleration techniques and detector prototypes right now. The ILC plays an important role as a magnet to attract the new generation of scientists and engineers that society needs.

This brochure is based on a Technology Benefits report commissioned by the Funding Agencies of Large Colliders FALC. Read the full report here: http://www.linearcollider.org/TechnologyBenefits/

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