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Superconducting Undulators – Established as a Superconducting Undulators Product for Synchrotron Light Sources and Free Electron Lasers

Successful factory testing, delivery, and installation of the first in-series produced superconducting undulator at KIT.

KIT and Bilfinger Noell GmbH celebrate the arrival and installation of the first superconducting undulator, SCU20, to reach series-production readiness. SCU technology enables the generation of more powerful X-rays and a wider range of experiments at modern synchrotron light sources and free-electron lasers. Compared to conventional permanent magnet devices, SCUs can produce stronger magnetic fields at a given period length and vacuum gap. With the 20 mm period length undulator SCU20, superconducting undulator technology has made the transition from development to a commercial product.

superconducting undulator

The new superconducting undulator SCU20 arrived at KIT. After the successful operation of its predecessor, the SCU15 prototype, in the KIT light source, this is an important milestone for the KIT-Noell collaboration: superconducting undulator technology has reached maturity and product status (Photo: M. Breig/KIT).

KIT and Bilfinger Noell GmbH joined forces for the development of superconducting undulator technology for present and future light sources around the world. With a full scale 15 mm period length prototype SCU15, the consortium was the first to demonstrate the technology’s advantage of higher peak magnetic fields over permanent magnet devices in full operation, in KIT’s 2.5 GeV electron storage ring KARA (Karlsruhe Research Accelerator). With the delivery and successful installation of the SCU20, the next major milestone has been achieved: a SCU optimized for series production and ready for installation in synchrotron light sources and free electron lasers.

Today, synchrotron radiation is an indispensable tool for characterization of materials relevant for a broad range of disciplines including biology, medicine, chemistry, physics and engineering. The overwhelming success of the synchrotron light sources is based on the outstanding properties of the X-rays emitted by electrons in magnets, in particular, in undulators consisting of magnet arrays. In superconducting undulators the magnetic fields are generated by superconducting wires that allow for higher magnetic fields than achievable with permanent magnets. Consequently, harder and more intense X-rays can be generated at existing and future light sources and free electron lasers.

Superconducting undulators are unique not only in terms of field strength, they also outperform permanent-magnet devices with respect to radiation hardness. The technology developed by the partners KIT and Bilfinger Noell includes technical solutions for cooling the device and for its operation, which are superior to competing approaches: the device is a conduction-cooled and plug & play solution avoiding the challenges associated with a liquid helium inventory. Furthermore, the gap between the upper and lower half of the undulator can be varied over a wide range during operation of the accelerator, thus providing an additional degree of freedom and maximum flexibility.

Sara Casalbuoni, head of the insertion device research group at KIT’s Institute for Beam Physics and Technology (IBPT) points out: “Our experience in magnet development, our unique magnet characterization and accelerator test facilities are a perfect match to Bilfinger Noell’s capabilities in magnet design and manufacture. This synergy is key to our common success.” Commenting on Bilfinger Noell’s experience in the development and series production, Cristian Boffo, head of development at Bilfinger Noell, remarks: “At Bilfinger Noell we did build more than 400 LHC dipoles and are currently manufacturing more than 100 superconducting magnets for the FAIR accelerator. Surely we are enthusiastic to expand the market into light sources and to produce superconducting undulators as a product for our customers.”

Looking back at the history of SCU development, Wolfgang Walter, head of Magnet Technology at Bilfinger Noell, points out “Developing the first device SCU15 has been a long and sometimes winding road, however, we demonstrated to the world what superconducting devices are capable of. Furthermore our team did not stop there - within 2 years we successfully transitioned the prototype technology into SCU20, a product with increased performance and reliability.”

As Prof. Anke-Susanne Müller, Head of the Institute for Beam Physics and Technology (IBPT) at KIT, summarizes: “With this device we have taken superconducting undulators to the next level from development to a real product. KIT and Bilfinger Noell will continue to develop the technology. We seek to engage with experts and customers worldwide to deliver the technologies for the accelerators of tomorrow.”

Dr. Sara Casalbuoni, 29.12.2017

Persons on the photo (from the left): Dr. Hans Braun (PSI, Project Leader SwissFEL), Dr. Sara Casalbuoni (KIT/IBPT), Cristian Boffo (Bilfinger Noell, Head of Development), Dr. Wolfgang Walter (Bilfinger Noell, Head of Division “Magnet Technologies”), Prof. Dr. Tilo Baumbach (KIT/IPS), Prof. Dr. Helmut Dosch (DESY, Chairman of the DESY Board of Directors), Prof. Dr. Oliver Kraft (KIT Vice President Research), Prof. Dr. Johannes Blümer (KIT), Dr.-Ing. Ronald Hepper (Bilfinger Noell, Management), Prof. Dr. Anke-Susanne Müller (KIT/IBPT), Prof. Dr. Eberhard Umbach (University of Würzburg, former KIT-President), Prof. Dr.-Ing. Detlef Löhe (formerly KIT), Prof. Dr. Volker Saile (KIT/IBPT).