The Fermi Lab in Illinois is the premier particle physics laboratory in the United States. Although not as big as the CERN lab in Europe, Fermi-Lab has a more powerful accelerator, at least until the latest rig goes online at CERN. Let us start with the Lab’s namesake, Enrico Fermi. Fermi was an Italian physicist. He worked from the 1920’s on as a physics teacher and a researcher. He came up with the theory of beta decay, and later won the Nobel Prize in physics. He, after emigrating from Italy started a nuclear physics lab, which later became known, posthumously, as the Enrico Fermi lab.

The lab is a particle accelerator center. Its flagship accelerator is the Tevatron, which accelerates protons and anti-protons at high speeds, in opposite directions. The ring is 4 miles in circumference. Three of the 18 known quarks have been discovered using the Tevatron at Fermi-Lab. When the particles collide at speeds of up to 99% the speed of light, protons and accelerated matter collide so violently, that they release their sub-atomic particles. This research has given physicists insight into the big bang. Magnetic coils operating at extremely high voltages accelerate the particles. The main accelerator, the Tevatron, operates at one trillion electron volts (one TeV). Most of the support equipment, recycler, and particle guns operate around 1-10 billion electron volts (GeV).

The main accelerator accelerates protons and anti-protons to maximum experimental speeds. It is a large underground ring. The main injector/recycler ring serves to hold antiprotons and protons until their release and final acceleration into the Tevatron. The other various branches off the main accelerator are sensor or particle gun devices. It looks sort of like a spider's web. The unseen support equipment is very important. There are two machine shops in the Fermi-Lab complex, along with a huge inventory of equipment. There is also a computer center for data collection and results interpretation. The staff at the lab is around 2,200, making it one of the largest public research institutions in the world.

Bibliography: Internet site: March 5, 2002.

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