Bringing students and experts together around environmental applications of accelerators

The I.FAST project’s yearly student challenge was held this summer, exploring environmental and societal applications of accelerator technology

I.FAST 2022
The I.FAST project’s yearly student challenge was held this summer, exploring environmental and societal applications of accelerator technology (Image: CERN)

How can accelerators address environmental issues? This summer, the EU-funded I.FAST project gathered highly motivated students from all across Europe to find innovative answers to that question.

The 2022 edition of the I.FAST Challenge-Based Innovation project was held at the European Scientific Institute (ESI) in Archamps, near Geneva. The event brought together 23 students of 17 different nationalities, with as many different backgrounds: physics and engineering, as well as law, business and environmental science. They spent ten days attending high-level seminars on accelerators and learning about their environmental applications. Multidisciplinary teams were then asked to suggest potential new applications and to present their project to experts in the field on the last day of the challenge.

The winning project was announced at a ceremony held at CERN, during which participants faced a panel of renowned experts presided by Frédérick Bordry, former CERN Director for Accelerators and Technology. Devised by the “Human Beam” team, the idea of using particle accelerators to address algae blooms in lakes was deemed the most interesting by the jury.

“I was impressed by the skills and passion shown by the four teams. Such events are a great opportunity for students to learn more about accelerator science and to work on concrete challenges. Their different backgrounds allowed them to think about projects from distinct perspectives – from the scientific and technical to the economic and legal – the way it’s done in actual organisations,” said Frédérick Bordry.

The jury highlighted the quality of the work of each team and their motivation. Three other projects were presented: investigating soil depollution by irradiation; loading a compact Compton source on a boat; and studying how accelerators can strengthen wind turbine blades.

This year’s theme was suggested by a Steering Committee composed of Philip Burrows, Nicolas Delerue, Bob Holland, Elias Métral, Louis Rinolfi and Maurizio Vretenar, with the help of a Programme Committee. The next edition of the I.FAST Challenge-Based Innovation project will take place in summer 2023 and will again focus on the topic “Accelerators for the environment”. Applications will open in December 2022.

The I.FAST project received funding from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme under Grant Agreement No. 101004730. I.FAST aims to enhance innovation in the particle accelerator community, mapping out and facilitating the development of breakthrough technologies common to multiple accelerator platforms. Within CERN, the project is coordinated by the EU Projects Office.