Commonwealth Research and Technology Strategic Roadmap Profile: Jefferson Lab

The Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab) in Newport News, Virginia is one of ten Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science (SC) national laboratories. It boasts state-of-the-art, one-of-a-kind facilities and technologies, making it unique from other research labs around the globe. The primary mission of the Lab is to utilize its unique Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF) to probe the nucleus of the atom to gain a deeper understanding of the structure of matter.

Jefferson Lab has a user community of almost 1,400 researchers from around the globe who take advantage of its world-class R&D capabilities, experience, expertise, and facilities. As of the end of 2015, Jefferson Lab had a staff of approximately 800, with nearly 200 users from the United States and around the world visiting each day. Jefferson Lab is a critical part of the national science and technology pipeline, with more than 1/3 of all U.S. PhDs in nuclear science based on research at the Lab. In addition to conducting research, technology development and transfer, Jefferson Lab also provides outstanding science education programs for K-12 students, undergraduate and graduate students, and teachers.

Jefferson Lab's primary areas of technology leadership are in experimental and theoretical nuclear physicssuperconducting radio-frequency (SRF) accelerator scienceparticle detectors and advanced imagingdata acquisition and large-scale computing, and cryogenics.

The tools and techniques developed and utilized to advance the Lab's primary mission in nuclear physics have applications in a variety of technology sectors, including material science, energy, environment, life sciences, and information technology. The detectors used for the nuclear physics research program, for instance, have led to advances in medical and other advanced imaging applications, including a molecular breast imaging gamma camera for detecting early breast cancers that spawned a spin-off company Dilon Diagnostics. Additionally, SRF technology was utilized to develop a nano-material based on long fibril boron nitride nanotubes (BNNTs) that led to another spin-off company, BNNT LLC.  BNNTs maintain their strength in air to high temperatures (900°C), efficiently conduct heat but not electricity, can be made to be long and thin, are thought to be non-toxic to living tissues, and may be added to other materials to make composites with enhanced properties.

Jefferson Lab has completed a $310 million upgrade (known as the 12 GeV upgrade) to its accelerator, experimental halls, and other research-related facilities to allow scientists to employ new methods for studying the basic properties of the building blocks of the universe. The first experiments at 12 GEV are due to begin in 2016. Jefferson Lab is now focusing on a future initiative to construct an electron ion collider (JLEIC [“ J-like”}), which would ensure continued world leadership in nuclear physics beyond the 12 GeV upgrade.

In accelerator science, Jefferson Lab is a world leader in superconducting SRF technology. Jefferson Lab has processed more multi-cell superconducting cavities to consistently higher performance levels than any other facility in the world. DOE invested $72 million to upgrade facilities for accelerator component R&D and production facilities at the Lab's new Technology and Engineering Development Facility (TEDF). This enhanced capability will advance SRF technology at Jefferson Lab and other labs worldwide, as well as for other planned future accelerators. Jefferson Lab's accelerator requires cryogenic temperatures for its components, and therefore, Jefferson Lab has a leadership role in this field, developing a breakthrough patented process called the Ganni Cycle, after the inventor. This process was most recently used by NASA to advance the development of the James Webb Space Telescope.

In addition, Jefferson Lab’s Low Energy Recirculator Facility, formerly known as the Free-Electron Laser (FEL), was developed using the lab’s expertise in superconducting SRF accelerators. As an FEL, the facility was the world’s highest-power tunable infrared laser and also provided ultraviolet laser light, including vacuum ultraviolet light, and Terahertz light. Currently, the lab is using the term Low Energy Recirculator Facility, or LERF, to refer to this facility, as future missions with potentially broader scope are under development.

Jefferson Lab has an aggressive technology transfer program that encourages disclosure of new ideas and technologies. Jefferson Lab is a member of iBridge, a university tech transfer network, and the Lab's patents are listed there to increase exposure for its technologies.