Brookhaven Physics: Into the Future

To remain at the frontier of science, Brookhaven is continually evaluating its research programs and planning new or revised investigations in areas that the U.S. Department of Energy identifies as national science priorities and that make use of Brookhaven scientists’ interests and strengths.

STAR detector (L) and PHENIX detector

After discovering quark-gluon plasma, physicists will proceed to measure details of its many intriguing characteristics and properties, and continue to investigate many other aspects of heavy ion physics and spin physics. To undertake these tasks, Brookhaven is planning to upgrade RHIC to RHIC-II by increasing the facility’s luminosity, or collision rate, by a factor of ten, thereby increasing the rate of plasma production and the ability to study rare processes in RHIC collisions. RHIC-II will also provide important upgrades for RHIC’s two largest detectors, PHENIX and STAR, enabling them to pursue new measurements to extend the knowledge of heavy ion physics and provide enhanced ability to study rare processes made accessible by the higher luminosity.

Physicists are also interested in looking for another novel state of matter called color glass condensate at RHIC. This matter is hypothesized to be the saturated, or maximum density, pre-collision state that gluons can achieve in highly relativistic collisions of heavy ions. Hints of color glass condensate may already be appearing in the RHIC data. To study this as-yet-unconfirmed form of matter, Brookhaven has proposed evolving RHIC into eRHIC, the world’s first electron-heavy ion collider. An electron beam is ideal for probing nuclear structure, and, thus, eRHIC would be important for the study of color glass condensate and other predictions of the fundamental theory of nuclear forces known as quantum chromodynamics.

Another proposed project is the Very Long Baseline Super Neutrino Beam Experiment, in which a neutrino beam will be projected from Brookhaven’s AGS through the earth to a very large neutrino detector located in the Rocky Mountains. The experiment would yield a complete determination of the masses and related properties of neutrinos. These measurements will yield key input for the study of the evolution of the universe and could lead to an understanding of why matter in the universe prevails over anti-matter. This research is important to many areas of science, including cosmology, particle physics, nuclear physics, and astronomy.

Brookhaven is entering into the exciting field of astrophysics and cosmology by taking on a major role in the construction and use of a next-generation ground-based telescope, called the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) to study dark energy, the mysterious force responsible for the recently observed acceleration of the expansion of the universe. Scientists will use LSST to study the properties of dark energy by creating a three-dimensional map of the mass in the universe over most of the visible sky. The third dimension of this map, the distance from Earth, translates into time, so the map will show how the distribution of mass in the universe evolved from a time when the universe was half its present age up to today.

In 2008, Brookhaven is planning to commission the new Center for Functional Nanomaterials facility, which will provide researchers with state-of-the-art capabilities to tailor materials at the atomic level, with the aim of understanding how to improve materials’ chemical or physical functioning. Applications of nanomaterials may include nanoscale electronic devices, ultra-thin optical devices, improved solar energy conversion, and advanced fuel-cell catalysts.

Brookhaven also plans to build the NSLS-II, a new state-of-the-art medium-energy electron storage ring designed to produce x-rays up to 10,000 times brighter than those at the current NSLS. The new capabilities provided by this facility will be essential for characterizing the nanoscale structures fabricated at the CFN, the advanced materials needed for hydrogen production and storage, and for fuel cell technologies. NSLS-II will also enable breakthroughs in understanding the functions of large assemblies of biological molecules, such as membrane proteins.

Underpinning all of our future research is the need for advanced computing capabilities. For current and future theoretical research in high energy and nuclear physics, a new computing facility, known as QCDOC, standing for qcd on a chip, will be based at Brookhaven. Designed by a team from Columbia University, IBM, and the RIKEN BNL Research Center, this facility will contain more than 10,000 IBM processors, each with its own memory and an extremely fast inter-processor communication network. Each processor is connected by 24 wires to its neighbors—the equivalent of a 24-lane superhighway for data sharing. Other possible applications include computational biology and climate modeling.

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Last Modified: January 4, 2006