What’s It Really Like Working At A DOE National Lab.




I don’t have Netflix or even a TV, so I haven’t seen Stranger Things other than some ads on You Tube.  This post turned up and I thought that I would share my experiences working at a DOE National lab. The author of the post is a little retrained so I thought that I would liven things up.

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The Big New Xray Laser At SLAC

The big linear accelerator at SLAC is upgrading.  The interesting thing is that they are using technology that I’m familiar with, the superconducting radiocavity. These cavities were first used at Jefferson Lab in Virginia where I worked for two years.  They actually a very interesting use of extreme cryogenics, high intensity microwaves and exotic materials and mechanical technologies.

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Using 3D Printing At Jefferson Lab

I wish that we had had one when I worked there.  In fact the lab needs a metal printer as well as that Makerbot.  Being able to make single parts and very small runs is important in a physics lab environment.  As often as not you are designing stuff that will only be used once, or not at all.  A good portion of what you do doesn’t even exist in the commercial world and your low volumes and custom requirements mean that you pay through the nose.  You are also constantly improvising and hacking stuff together.  In that kind of environment having something like a Makerbot is perfect.  You can design a mockup, print it and have it on the machine in hours. Even if you don’t have the final part made you can avoid the kinds of mistakes that can get very costly in time and money.


The Story Of A Part 1

I drew this part up in 1997 while I was working at Jefferson Lab in Virginia.  It’s a simple part with complicated requirements.  For the  Free Electron Laser we had to transfer very high voltage from the power supply to the electron gun.  In order to do that the EE in charge wanted to use aluminum pipe as the center of the conduit.  He also insisted on using a corona ring as the elbow for the conduit.  This didn’t work out because it’s very difficult to make a welded pressure vessel from aluminum.


Here’s this part welded into the inner conduit.  The issue with this part is that sharp corner around the outside end.  This where I learned that when it comes to high voltages, curves are your friends.   Otherwise BZZZZTT!!! Still in all it was a fun project.