Accelerator Physics

A rendering of particles colliding in the LHC

About us

Along with our colleagues in the Lancaster University's Engineering Department, the members of the Lancaster accelerator physics group are part of the Cockcroft Institute of Accelerator Science and Technology based at the Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus near Warrington, Cheshire.

Particle accelerators are potent tools that lie at the heart of research into particle physics but also play significant roles in fields such as medicine. Wherever a beam of high-energy particles or light can be of use, particle accelerators offer a solution.

There are always demands for particle beams with higher energies and higher intensities, but there are limitations to what can be achieved using the accelerators of today. Some of these limitations are practical ones determined by cost and size, whereas others are fundamental and relate to unanswered questions about how charged particles interact with electromagnetic fields. We use our expertise in particle physics and mathematical physics to address these limitations. You can find out more about our plasma interactions research on our plasma physics research pages.

On the experimental side of our work, we investigate a range of topics such as how we can use beams of polarised particles to help probe mysteries in particle physics. On the theoretical side, we develop new effective classical and quantum theories for analysing matter in extreme conditions, with implications for cosmic particle acceleration as well as for experiments in the laboratory.

Key Research

  • The development and design of high-flux sources of positrons and gamma-rays for future high-energy colliders and other applications. For example, developing the positron source for the International Linear Collider
  • Simulating the dynamics and interactions of polarised particle beams in experiments such as Fermilab muon g-2
  • Leading the CASCADE collaboration in its search for weakly-interacting sub-eV particles such as axions using radio-frequency cavities
  • Investigating wave propagation in spatially dispersive media and photonic structures
  • Exploring radiation reaction in ultra-intense laser-plasmas as members of the ALPHA-X collaboration

PhD Opportunities


Postgraduate Training

All postgraduate students in the accelerator physics group are members of the Cockcroft Institute of Accelerator Science and Technology. The Cockcroft Institute runs a two-year postgraduate education programme in accelerator science and technology which is compulsory for its own PhD students and also available to students in other groups and at other universities. The lectures are recorded to be webcast and archived.

The lecture programme has an initial 3 months introductory period starting in October and runs once a week until December of each year. Lectures cover the basics of accelerator science and technology, including beam dynamics and magnet design.

The advanced portion of the lecture programme runs from January to September and on a two-year cycle covers topics such as:

  • Hamiltonian beam dynamics
  • Free-electron lasers
  • Radio frequency engineering
  • Laser plasma acceleration

All of our PhD students complete a number of assessments covering the Cockcroft Institute introductory course syllabus and are given the opportunity to carry out computational laboratory exercises including computational tools such as CST Microwave Studio, OPERA and MADX, to design RF cavities, magnets and particle beamlines respectively.

Depending on the nature of the PhD topic being covered, our students may also attend some of the graduate training offered by our colleagues in the Mathematical Physics group or Experimental Particle Physics groups.

Additional training opportunities

Further specialised training in accelerator physics may be offered through attendance at one or more of the CERN accelerator schools.

In addition to attending international conferences relevant to their degree, our students attend the annual accelerator PhD student conference at the Cockcroft Institute where they present their work and receive feedback on their presentation skills.

In common with all Lancaster postgraduate students, our students have access to a wide range of other general and transferable-skills training courses through the university.