GSI ring accelerator in operation again

Conversion work lasting more than a year for future accelerator center FAIR completed

The new acceleration stage (silvery installation) will be needed to run FAIR. Behind it, bending magnets (red) and focussing magnets (yellow) can be seen. Photo: Gaby Otto for GSI

After conversion work lasting more than one year the large ring accelerator “SIS 18” (the German acronym for heavy ion synchrotron) has been put back into operation at GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research. The first scientific experiments commenced today. With these experiments scientists are investigating the impact of cosmic radiation on manned space flight. Thanks to the conversion work, the first technical prerequisites have been fulfilled for the ring accelerator to serve as a pre-accelerator for the new particle acceleration facility FAIR.


In the experiment which commenced today scientists in cooperation with the European Space Agency (ESA) are investigating the impact of cosmic radiation on cells and on the shielding qualities of various materials. This is a decisive factor in manned space flight as astronauts are permanently exposed to cosmic radiation outside the protection of the earth’s atmosphere. The GSI acceleration facility is able to produce ion beams as these occur in outer space. In addition to the experiments for space flight, scientists will use the ion beams to conduct many other experiments in the fields of nuclear physics, atomic physics, material research and biophysics. It is expected that the ring accelerator will be in operation 24 hours a day until mid-May.


In the course of the conversion work for SIS 18 a new acceleration section was incorporated. The ring accelerator, which has a circumference of 216 meters, thus has three acceleration sections as opposed to two to date. In the coming years SIS 18 will see further conversions and will be equipped with two additional acceleration sections. With a total of five acceleration sections the ring accelerator will attain the necessary power to accelerate all kinds of elements as a pre-accelerator and to inject these into the FAIR acceleration facility.

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