We addressed this question to Sergey Nikitin, Director of the Institute of Physics, immediately after finding out that a collider is being built at Dubna.
Dr. Nikitin visited the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research where he witnessed firsthand how the work on NICA (Nuclotron-based Ion Collider fAcility) is going. Discussing the forthcoming EXON 2016 symposium was the other item on his agenda.
- Sergey Ivanovich, tell us, please, about how this first Russian collider is different from the Large Hadron Collider?
- NICA will allow Russia to achieve leading positions in high energy physics. Its main task will be the research in quark-gluon plasma. One of the tasks for LHC was finding the Higgs boson. It was found in 2012. LHC pushes together high energy proton beams, which results in high-density matter states with high energies and high temperatures. NICA’s energies will be lower, and heavy ions will be used instead of protons. High density thus can be achieved with hundred times lower temperatures. These are the conditions necessary for studying quark-gluon plasma. The work that JINR employees plan to begin is very complicated because accelerating heavy nuclei is more difficult than accelerating protons.
The first launch is planned for 2019, and regular mode should be achieved three years later. I was at the construction yard in August 2015 and saw the 24-hour work on assembling and testing superconducting magnets.
- What is studying quark-gluon plasma for?
- For discovering the history of our Universe. NICA can create conditions close to those of the Big Bang. As our current theoretical assumptions say, the first microseconds or milliseconds of its existence the Universe was this quark-gluon plasma, and after that baryonic matter started forming.
High baryonic density matter has not been properly researched yet. The fundamental problems here are searching for and studying new types of baryonic matter, understanding the reasons for quarks’ cohesion in nucleons, explaining the matter/antimatter asymmetry in the Universe.
- These are fundamental tasks. Is there any applied significance?
- Of course. Differen issues will be addressed simultaneously. The project is very costly, so every minute must be put to use. NICA can broaden the scope of some applied research currently conducted on Nuclotron, such as medical experiments for radiation and carbon therapy, testing of radiation resistance of different materials, utilization of radioactive waste.
- Will our employees be a part of this work?
- We plan to cooperate with JINR in educational programs in nuclear medicine. It is possible that we start conducting joint research on the accelerator when it will be finished. We hope to sign a cooperation agreement between KFU and JINR during the EXON 2016 symposium that will take place on September 4th – 10th in Kazan.