Blog | Big science, Industry

My Travels: A Look at the Trio of Unbeatable 2019 Events in Big Physics

Rok Hrovatin

At Cosylab we try to stay on our toes all the time, maintaining and strengthening our ties with industry, our partners and our customers in the domain of Big Physics. Hopefully, we are letting future clients know that we are ready to help them, too with their engineering challenges in controlling systems. 

On the other hand, the analogy of keeping ourselves on our toes is, perhaps, not the most fortunate one, as we at Cosylab also travel a lot with our toes in the air, high above the oceans separating the world’s continents. A good example is 2019 when we flew over multiple continents to visit a trio of the most significant events of the scientific community – IPAC, IBIC and ICALEPCS in Melbourne, Malmö and Brooklyn, respectively.

A lot is going on in Big Science, besides particle acceleration

If there was one characteristic that I gleaned from the top-level 2019 conferences of IPAC, IBIC, and ICALEPCS, it is that they have something in common: each of them stays true to their long-term mission and specialisation. And, in 2019, even the scheduling and programming of the three events was so in synch that I found myself seeing a common narrative connecting them. I believe this went a long way to help industry watchers, players and participants to create an excellent overview of the latest technologies, projects, issues and trends.

In Melbourne, at IPAC, the main talking points and focus were on particle accelerators in general. In Malmö, at IBIC, one could get well-acquainted with the most recent developments in devices and electronics. Finally, in Brooklyn, at ICALEPCS, service and software product providers, such as Cosylab, were able to present to the industry their vision of the next big new thing in development and helped answer the crucial questions of the day.

One of these questions is, undoubtedly, the far from rhetoric inquiry of “Who will develop all the control stuff for the new things?”. The presented innovations, plans and projections are much broader than just “plain” particle accelerators, and encompass telescopes and their arrays, fusion reactors and more specialised applications. Among the latter are cancer treatment facilities and their supporting medical therapy subsystems, and industrial physics machines such as isotope-production facilities and other specialised plants.

Interestingly, looking back, I see that at each of the three major events, I could barely feel any country-specific characteristics and regional bias, which confirms, yet again, that science and its engineering are still, thankfully, ahead of the day-to-day biases.

IPAC 2019, Melbourne

First on my agenda was the 10th IPAC (International Particle Accelerator Conference) in Melbourne (May 19 – 24 2019). Many of the participants reported on progress on various types of colliders and associated accelerators, on light sources – particularly on the 4th generation – as well as on new types of accelerators, such as those using Laser-induced Plasma Wakefield for particle speed-up.

Credit: rmodic

Of course, attendants of the Melbourne event also discussed technologies and components, which was of additional interest to Cosylab. At IPAC, it was also interesting to see, among other projects, a relatively strong presence of medical applications, although the “medical” workshop was a satellite event of the conference.

Australia, specifically, is preparing to construct its first proton therapy (PT) for cancer-treatment facility and is intensifying medical investigations conducted at existing accelerator sites. In Adelaide, SAHMRI (South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute) will build at its location the landmark Australian Bragg Centre for Proton Therapy and Research which is expected to treat about 800 patients a year.

IBIC 2019, Malmö

When you are looking for meaningful information on cutting-edge developments in accelerator technologies and equipment, you cannot by-pass IBIC (the International Beam Instrumentation Conference) which brings together experts in instrumentation, beam diagnostics and measurement techniques for charged particle accelerators from around the globe.

One of the many hot topics of integration at IBIC 2019 in Malmö (8-12 September 2019), was still uTCA and its new various system implementations. Integration of multiple form factors and, generally, of diagnostics equipment seems currently to be of enhanced interest in the integration field. It was interesting to hear from participants that diagnostics teams often do not enjoy the luxury of prompt support from in-house control-systems groups, and this situation forces them to use less systematic approaches to construct, assemble, test and integrate particular instruments.


ICALECPS 2019, Brooklyn

As for ICALEPCS, we at Cosylab consider the International Conference on Accelerator and Large Experimental Physics Control Systems to be “our” conference, as it is one of the events that we have been visiting religiously from the very beginning of our company. Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) and the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS II) hosted ICALECPS 2019, with Kevin Brown and his organising team executing their event plan flawlessly and elegantly while making everyone feel welcome.

We found Brooklyn to be vibrant as usual, but also discovered the conference topics to be especially lively, transcending the narrower scope of merely accelerators. Quite a bit of thrill was added by the main topic of the conference –cyber security. Participants energetically presented and discussed other Big Physics infrastructure facilities, such as telescopes, fusion machines and accelerator-based medical therapy sites. Program workshops included, among others, sessions on EPICS, FPGA development, TANGO, PLC-based control systems, motion control, and the MicroTCA standard and applications.

Our enthusiasm was also fired up by the fact that Cosylab is present in all the mentioned domains and we left the conference with a long list of TO-DOs and new contacts.

Recurring question

At each year end, we at Cosylab ask ourselves the same question: do we need to put in the resources and time to be present at so many science and industry events – especially at IPAC, ICALEPS and IBIC? The answer is, emphatically, yes!

Leaving aside the everyday importance of tracking our customers’ needs and industry developments, and performing our support services to industry, it is, in the end, an engineer’s curiosity of “How is it done?” and “Can it be made better?”, that sets the imperative for us to be present at these three Big Science events.

Are my insights spot-on? Let me know in the comments below or send me an email :)

About the Author

Rok Hrovatin joined Cosylab in 2015 and has applied his vast experience gained in industry and in the quality and standards arena to identify appropriate control system solutions for unique problems in the world of particle accelerators and big physics.

In his free time, Rok enjoys running, working around his house, long motorbike journeys, kayaking, sailing and cycling. He feels that his leisure time is always too short, but he always enjoys whatever free time he has. He prefers wine over beer and sausages over foie gras. Most of all he likes spending quality time with his grandsons.

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