Weather Updates

Hultgren tours, touts Fermilab

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

BATAVIA — Congressman Randy Hultgren saw up close how Fermilab scientists and engineers are developing and testing superconducting radio-frequency cavities for the next generation of particle accelerators.

On Wednesday, Hultgren toured the lab’s Industrial Center Building where components of new accelerator technology considered crucial to the future of particle physics are assembled.

Hultgren, a Winfield Township Republican representing the 14th Congressional District, said he has always considered Fermilab a “jewel” in the realm of new scientific discovery and the creation of jobs.

But he also said in these challenging economic times it will require nothing less than a fight to protect and increase federal funding to keep Fermilab strong.

The freshman congressman said he is committed to working with his colleagues in Washington.

“I know this is a challenging time, but we will get through it,” he told a group of employees from Fermilab and companies the laboratory works with.

On display on the main floor, where normally there would be loud noises with people at work, were superconducting radio-frequency niobium cavities — elliptically shaped devices small enough to grip in the palms of two hands.

The cavities, manufactured by PAVAC Energy Corp of Batavia, are strung in a straight line like pearls in a necklace and placed inside a titanium helium vessel which bathes them and keeps them cold. A series of these go into another 30-foot-long vessel which will go into the ground.

“It is promising to see the congressman’s interest — everyone is hoping Fermilab remains a star in high-energy physics,” PAVAC senior engineer Tim Ring said.

Cabot Microelectronics of Aurora has developed polishing technologies for the interior of these radio-frequency niobium cavities.

“Fermilab’s work leads to fundamental knowledge of physics but it also has the potential for spin-off applications like ours which creates jobs to grow the economy,” said Cliff Spiro, chief technology officer of Cabot Microelectronics.

“If this becomes a technical success and they go ahead with the project, there will be a lot of work involved,” Spiro said.

Both company representatives said their work requires highly skilled technical expertise.

Scientists and engineers believe Fermilab needs to develop new accelerator technology to stay in the upper echelon of science.

They said right now the U.S. is maintaining its presence in the scientific world, but that is in danger with the cuts the federal government is proposing.

“This technology will allow for the next stage of tools,” Fermilab Director Pier Oddone said.

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.