The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Electron-Ion Collider (EIC), a unique international particle collider being constructed to explore the building blocks of matter at the smallest scale, will get a significant boost from colleagues in the United Kingdom (UK). The UK Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), through the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Infrastructure Fund, has announced its commitment to support UK personnel involved in research, development, and major equipment contributions towards the successful completion and subsequent research program of the EIC. 

The contribution from DSIT is one of the first from DOE’s international partners and will help to develop the new detector and infrastructure for the EIC. Spanning a period of seven years, the financial support from the DSIT will support a consortium of UK laboratories and universities to partner with the EIC collaboration. The EIC will be looking for answers to some of the most important questions in nuclear physics, like how quarks and gluons interact via the strong force to create the most fundamental building block in nature—the proton.

“The EIC is a great example of international collaboration. This unique collider will delve deeper than ever into the origin of the building blocks of nature – and breakthroughs from it will impact the world’s understanding of the universe,” said Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, Director of the DOE’s Office of Science. “It continues a long-standing tradition of ground-breaking scientific exploration with one of DOE’s oldest and strongest partners.”

UKRI's support for EIC — £58.8 ($74.2) million to develop new detector and accelerator infrastructure — came as part of the agency's announcement of plans for £473 ($598) million investment in infrastructure to equip UK science and innovation for the future.

“Through these investments, UKRI continues to equip the research and innovation community with the tools it needs to explore and develop the science and technologies needed for the coming decades,” said Mark Thomson, Executive Chair for the Science and Technologies Facilities Council and Infrastructure Champion for UKRI. “These projects will strengthen the UK community’s quest for discovery and innovative applications. The long-term nature of this investment also helps to maintain the UK’s key position on the world stage of research and innovation for the future. On a personal level, I am particularly pleased that today’s announcement will strengthen the UK’s collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy, in the development and delivery of a major new scientific facility.”

The EIC is being constructed at the DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory in partnership with Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility. Construction of the EIC will also include teams from Argonne, Lawrence Berkeley, and Oak Ridge National Laboratories, as well as multiple U.S. universities and international partners. The EIC is the only facility being constructed in the coming decades capable of colliding a beam of high-energy polarized electrons with a counter-circulating beam of high-energy polarized protons or heavier ions. At the collision point of these two beams, a complex detector system will capture individual collision events, providing crucial information on the forces and interactions inside protons and atomic nuclei, and producing what many have referred to as “a CT scan of the proton.” Besides the benefits to fundamental scientific knowledge, the EIC will significantly advance research in other fields including accelerator physics, medical physics, artificial intelligence, computing, electronics, and radiation safety. Numerous jobs requiring a highly skilled workforce will be needed to construct and operate the EIC. 

The EIC project is currently supported by an international collaboration of over 1,400 researchers representing nearly 300 institutions in 40 countries. Scientists in the UK are major contributors to the EIC collaboration and have taken on a prominent role in the research and development of specific critical components of the EIC.