The ILC will not only be a chance to research at the forefront of fundamental physics, but also a great opportunity for local Tohoku and Iwate businesses. Much potential lies in getting involved with the R&D and manufacturing of accelerator parts and other related machinery. However, while plenty of manufacturing companies exist locally (we have a booming semiconductor industry in Iwate!), it will be a challenge to produce these next-generation parts and train their staff to work in an international environment. That’s where the Iwate Accelerator-related Industry Lecture Series comes in. These lectures are periodically held to encourage and support local businesses in getting involved with accelerator-based industry.

At the tail-end of January, they held another seminar on this subject and a chance to network with representatives of local academia, government, and industry.

Michio Kitamura of Nomura Research Institute (NRI) spoke about the technology for the ILC as well as future challenges for development. Kitamura is a member of a research and analysis committee commissioned by Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) to study the technical feasibility and economic effects of the ILC project. He spoke about the challenges in scaling up two key technologies required for the ILC:

Superconducting radio frequency (SCRF)

This technology is used to accelerate the particle beam (of electrons and positrons) within a superconducting cavity. Wait- what? Fermilab, a national laboratory in the United States specializing in high-energy particle physics, has this explanation:

“The ILC will accelerate electrons and their opposites, positrons, close to the speed of light. In order to provide the necessary acceleration to make particles collide at 500 billion electron volts, the ILC will use superconducting radiofrequency cavities made of pure niobium that are chilled to 1.8 degrees above absolute zero. As many as 16,000 cavities, each roughly a meter long, and placed end-to-end in vessels called cryomodules, will drive the electrons and positrons forward with an accelerating gradient of more than 30 million volts per meter (MV/m). The higher the gradient, the shorter, and hence cheaper, the ILC can be made.”

Read more at Fermilab’s R&D page for SCRF technology

It was decided in 2004 that the ILC would use these superconducting cavities in its design, and Japan (KEK), Germany (DESY), and the United States (Fermilab, SLAC) have been at the forefront in developing this technology. They have succeeded in reaching the target values (a maximum accelerating gradient at 31.5 MV/m) needed for the ILC in about 90% of cavities, with the next steps being to improve the practicality and reliability of the device.

Nano-beam handling

Electrons and positrons are both elementary particles, the smallest bits of matter possible. Colliding these two together requires a high level of precision, and the ILC will need to squeeze its particle beams down to the nanometer level, using electromagnets and technology that allows for stability and precise control. These beams also need to be ultralow-emittance beams, which means that all of the particles in the beam are confined mostly together – there’s very few particles wandering off somewhere else. The beams will be made up of particles all the same charge after all (electrons being negative, and positrons being positive), and particles of the same charge naturally repel each other. The beam technology in the ILC will need to prevent that from happening as much as possible to ensure a nice collision.

The Accelerator Test Facility (ATF) at Japan’s High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK) has been globally-unique in developing this technology. ATF is working towards a goal beam size of 37 nanometers. When produced at the energies required for the ILC, this beam would become even smaller – a teeny tiny 5.9 nanometers!

In essence, the ILC will be using technology that already exists in some form or will most likely exist by the time it is constructed. After surveying a number of major research facilities in the U.S. and Europe, the NRI committee has determined that it is unlikely that the preparations and construction for the ILC will require some altogether new form of technology. However, R&D must progress towards improving the level of already-existing technology with mass production and lowered costs. It may be possible to make one working prototype, but how about 16,000 of them? With a project at this scale of global participation, what country will be responsible for which parts? Managing global logistics and supply chain issues, and training staff with the experience and technical knowledge in these areas will be necessary.

Roughly 1,850 cryomodules (vessels that cool the SCRF cavities) need to be manufactured for the ILC accelerator, as well as sensors, other electronics, wiring, and more. Someone needs to make those parts, and factories could be sited right in this area. If companies in the local area are up to the task, the ILC facility could order parts from their backyard. The entire region could become an incubator for ILC technology, development, and related services (kind of like our own Silicon Valley).

Healthcare, motor vehicles, nuclear waste handling, semiconductors, electron microscopes, energy development, ion batteries – you name it, accelerator-based research is involved in creating and developing these technologies. What about using innovations for the ILC in Iwate’s famed agriculture industry? You could use ion beams to breed hardier rice, or develop new mutations in Nanbu-Ichiro squashes (a local delicacy) to deal with the cold weather. The possibilities are endless.

Two case studies were presented on getting involved with accelerator industry. Hideyuki Tanaka of Tokin Machinery talked about their forays into electromagnetics (their magnets are used by the high-speed bullet train in Taiwan!). Yoshiaki Ida of Marui Galvanizing talked about his company’s electropolishing processes, which could be used on the cryomodules/superconducting cavities to erase imperfections (a micron off and you could throw the whole particle beam off). Both speakers were clear that getting involved with this industry will require preparation and planning, as you are getting involved with experimental research and new frontiers. You need new ideas to stand outside of the pack. Further work must be done to match the region’s skills and technology with the needs of the researchers.

Masanori Matsuoka and Hiroyuki Yoshizumi of AAA (The Advanced Accelerator Association Promoting Science & Technology) said it best at the end. If you want your company to be involved in this exciting field, remember your client’s needs:
1) To collide particles at high speeds
2) in a very small beam, and
3) and to accurately record and analyze that data

Anything that can help the ILC realize its goals is welcomed.

Nobody could have predicted how the birth of the World Wide Web at CERN to share information between researchers would become so intrinsic to modern life. Innovation is not something you can predict beforehand, but what is certain is that accelerators can help join the world together as we search for things we have never seen before. Dr. Masakazu Yoshioka, emeritus professor at KEK and guest professor at Iwate University and Tohoku University, had a few last words. Accelerator-based research is the frontier of mankind’s understanding of the universe. Within this unique field lies great technological advances and greater challenges still. The ILC project, as well as other accelerator-based projects in Aomori and Fukushima shows that Tohoku is ready to try its hand at accelerator-type projects, and there is so much possibility for international collaboration in all fields. A new frontier, born in Tohoku!

If the ILC is realized, this would be the first time for Japan to host such a project of this size. Thousands of people will come to live in the area, and they will give so much to Tohoku. Our final goal should be to use the leaps made at the ILC and contribute it back to the world.

Further details about NRI’s analysis of the technical and economic effects of the ILC can be found on MEXT’s website in Japanese.








超伝導高周波加速技術 Superconducting radio frequency (SCRF)



ナノ・ビーム制御技術 Nano-beam handling






① 高速で粒子を衝突
② 極めて小さなビームで
③ その衝突データ等を正確に記録・分析する装置