In April 2018, Allectra, a high vacuum components company, was selected to supply all the signal and high voltage feedthrough flanges for the ICARUS upgrade at CERN in a contract which was externally funded by the National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN) in Italy1.
ICARUS is a 760-ton detector filled with liquid argon which was used between 2010 and 2014 at the INFN Gran Sasso Laboratory in Italy to study neutrino oscillations using a beam of neutrinos produced at CERN. After its overhaul at CERN, it was shipped to Chicago to start a second life. It will be part of the Short Baseline Neutrino (SBN) programme at Fermilab, dedicated to the study of sterile neutrinos.
The work for this project consisted of finding the right solution to safely bring hundreds of high voltage and high quality signal channels into the detector, avoiding discharge issues and minimizing the footprint in order to allow an easy connection of all the feedthroughs. The selected feedthroughs have been successfully tested at CERN’s Liquid Argon facilities and the last items were delivered in November 2018 at an overall contract value of over €100,000; a large figure for a contract in the component manufacturing sector.
This contract was a unique challenge for Allectra; they have similar products to those required for ICARUS in their catalogue, but not products specifically designed for applications in a gaseous medium. The solution offered by Allectra to solve the problem at hand was to put around 24 conductors into one flange. As a result of this, a 60-70 mm flange was needed just for one single conductor, meaning that a large amount of space could be saved. This solution has many applications outside this contract, marrying closely with fields of science such as the search for dark matter, which are currently being explored by scientists at CERN and at other research facilities.
Dr. Gianluca Raselli of INFN was deeply involved with the selection phase, testing and installation of the flanges with feedthroughs, and said “we opted for Allectra flanges because the quality of these products were unique to fulfil the experiment requirements. Their installation gave us great benefits in terms of connection simplification, whilst still maintaining a high design value in the whole system.”
Allectra was founded by two physicist entrepreneurs, giving them a solid base of scientific excellence and business acumen. They view collaborations such as this contract with CERN as very much a two-way process, with both parties benefitting from improved operations and performance. In the case of the ICARUS contract, Allectra were able to understand more about applying high voltage feedthroughs in a gaseous environment and improved their machining process, whilst CERN gained a novel solution which could translate across to other detector studies.
Allectra’s staff also view the ongoing collaboration with CERN in a very positive light, feeling that such ventures enhance their image and lend credibility to the work they do. Their product manager, Dario Proietti, said that “Allectra recognises CERN as a progressive and credible organisation at the pinnacle of scientific research.” STFC hopes that Allectra will continue their excellent work with CERN, securing further contracts and bringing more impact from UK science to the world.
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1CERN is funded by 23 Member States and has an overall budget of over 1.1 billion Swiss francs per year. CERN can receive special contributions for specific projects and there are more than 600 institutes from around the world who fund the experiments at CERN. There are various procurement routes and CERN can procure items on behalf of other organisations. This contract was placed by CERN and funded by the National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN).
Last updated: 22 May 2019