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.
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.
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.