TRIUMF and CERN collaborate to advance world-class physics research

TRIUMF has collaborated with CERN on a number of major projects, including the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and the ATLAS detector, big data computing, rare isotope beam research and development, and the ALPHA experiment. This international partnership has not only produced scientific benefits for both laboratories, but also established a strong foundation for ongoing scientific collaboration between Canada and Europe.

TRIUMF – Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics and accelerator-based science – connects Canadian researchers to Europe through a longstanding partnership with CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research). With cooperation spanning a number of major projects, the TRIUMF-CERN collaboration is a strong example of an international research partnership that has delivered significant benefit for both Canada and Europe.

TRIUMF’s formal institutional collaboration with CERN began in 1996 with Canada’s contribution to the LHC – the massive 27-kilometre accelerator that straddles the French-Swiss border. Recognizing the importance of participating in this global megaproject, Canada contributed crucial LHC elements, designed by TRIUMF and built by a consortium of Canadian companies. Valued at approximately $42 million, the TRIUMF-CERN LHC collaboration focused primarily on novel high-performance power supplies and magnets critical to the accelerator’s operation. In addition, TRIUMF experts contributed to a better understanding of the beam acceleration and interaction. The value of the TRIUMF-CERN partnership was ultimately realized with the beginning of successful LHC operations in 2009.

The investment into the LHC enabled Canadians to collaborate fully in the CERN scientific program. A notable highlight of this relationship is the ATLAS experiment – one of two LHC detectors involved in the 2012 discovery of the Higgs boson. Based at CERN, the ATLAS collaboration is a global effort involving significant Canadian participation. For example, TRIUMF enabled the design and construction of complex detector components that were shipped to and installed at CERN. In addition, TRIUMF and CERN are also collaborating on the management of large amounts of experimental data collected from the ATLAS detectors. In particular, TRIUMF hosts one of just ten ATLAS Tier-1 data centres located around the world. TRIUMF’s dedicated high-performance computing facility is an integral part of the ATLAS computing network and stores one-tenth of the data collected by the experiment. TRIUMF’s Tier-1 operations team enables Canadian researchers to analyze the rich ATLAS data and make meaningful contributions to this global collaboration.

Beyond the LHC and ATLAS, TRIUMF and CERN are also partners in several other projects across a number of areas. Rare isotope beam science is one such area, as ISOLDE at CERN and ISAC at TRIUMF lead the world in producing isotopes using the Isotope Separator On-Line (ISOL) method. The two laboratories share a number of points of collaboration, ranging from target material research to laser ion source development to radiopharmaceutical production. Another example of the TRIUMF-CERN relationship can be seen in the ALPHA experiment. Supported by TRIUMF and hosted at CERN, the ALPHA collaboration produces, traps, and studies atomic antimatter – a successful endeavor that saw the Canadian team recognized with the prestigious 2013 NSERC John C Polanyi Award. Other examples of ongoing TRIUMF and CERN cooperation include collaborations in both nuclear and theoretical physics.

After 20 years of fruitful collaboration, the TRIUMF-CERN relationship remains thriving and productive. Moving forward, both laboratories are planning to strengthen their connections through projects such as the High-Luminosity LHC, and by sharing expertise on high power targets and remote handling technologies. Expanding this productive cooperation will continue to advance global physics research for the benefit of both Canada and Europe.

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