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Jefferson Laboratory

Jefferson Laboratory and the 12 GeV Upgrade

Aerial view of Jefferson Laboratory

Aerial view of Jefferson Laboratory
(Credit: Jefferson Laboratory)

Situated in Newport News on the south eastern coast of Virginia, Jefferson Laboratory (JLab) is one of the world’s leading facilities for hadron physics with over 1,500 scientists engaged in research carried out at the site.

JLab is designed to conduct research of the atom’s nucleus using a unique particle accelerator, the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF). JLab had until recently a 6 GeV (giga-electron volt) electron accelerator for studying electron and photon interactions with nuclei but is undergoing an upgrade project which includes the development of experimental equipment, the upgrade of the accelerator system to 12 GeV and the construction of a new experimental Hall D. The UK is involved in the upgrade at JLab with the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow both working collaboratively to develop new detector systems. The UK project is funded by STFC and allows the UK to maintain and further develop our scientific leadership in JLab’s science programme. Overall, the JLab Upgrade will make profound contributions to the study of hadronic matter (a composite particle made up of quarks). Further information on JLab can be found here.


Quick Facts about JLab


7/8 mile tunnel 25 feet below the earth’s surface


Over 2,200 magnets in 58 varieties


Tunnel containing electron beam accelerator. Magnets focus and steer electron beam which can then be delivered to one or more of the lab’s four experimental halls

Science Challenges

The JLab research programme is key to achieving STFC’s science challenges and will help to answer the following questions:

  • What is the physics of the early Universe?
  • What are the fundamental particles?
  • What is the nature of nuclear and hadronic matter?
  • How do the laws of physics work when driven to the extremes?
  • What can high energy particles tell us about the extreme Universe?

UK Involvement

There has been strong UK involvement at JLab since 1996, supported by STFC and EPSRC funding. Glasgow and Edinburgh groups were spokespersons on three experiments in the 6 GeV era, and have contributed to all of the experimental halls through detector development, collaboration management, programme planning, data analysis and provision of expertise.

Schematic layout of the required facility modifications to realise the JLab Upgrade

Schematic layout of the required facility modifications to realise the JLab Upgrade.
(Credit: Department of Energy's JLab)

Currently, the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow are working collaboratively to develop and construct a fast timing hodoscope, fast timing electronics and a Forward Tagger fast timing hodoscope for the JLab Upgrade.  These new detector systems will be vital to the future experimental programme at JLab and will allow the UK to maintain and further develop our scientific leadership in JLab’s science programme. This contribution to the world's leading hadron physics facility permits continued leadership of science in the areas of hadron spectroscopy and nucleon structure and paves the way to a future with strong UK involvement at JLab and beyond.


There have been various technological advancements resulting from UK research groups in hadron physics. These advancements have benefits to the economy, education and social wellbeing of the UK. Examples of such technological advancement can be found below.

The technology underlying the readout of the Forward Tagger hodoscope at JLab can be used to build low cost particle detectors for use in schools. This will help to improve education in science and inspire the next generation of scientists, ensuring future technological advancements are made.

Schematic of the Forward Tagger

Schematic of the Forward Tagger
(Credit: JLab Collaboration)

Photon detection techniques, used at JLab, can be applied to imaging of radioactive waste containers, and also environmental monitoring. Using photon detection techniques in this way allows us to understand the impact humans are having on the environment and help to reduce and prevent radioactive pollution. Furthermore, development of Positron Emission Tomography imaging techniques, through the development of silicon photomultipliers, can be used in medical imaging to better treat illnesses.

PhD students and Postdoctoral Research Assistants are also at the heart of the JLab Upgrade. Investing in the next generation of scientists is key to the future development of state-of-the-art technology.

Manufacture of the FT Hodoscope

Manufacture of the FT Hodoscope
(Credit: JLab Collaboration)

Last updated: 14 March 2017


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