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Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2009

Engineering Division Upgrades the ALS without Downsizing Safety

baptisteRecently, the ALS has moved into a new operational mode called “Top-Off” which provides users with a constant high level of photon flux through continuous injection of electrons into the storage ring. The Top-Off project represented a major upgrade to the ALS facility and presented some unique operational safety challenges because the beamline personnel safety shutters now had to remain open during injection into the storage ring.

To prevent the hazards of scattered radiation, the electrical engineers, lead by Ken Baptiste, designed a sophisticated personnel protection interlock safety system that analyzes the states of the ALS accelerator systems to determine if it is safe to inject electrons into the storage ring. The system monitors hundreds of data points, analyzes them and responds in less than a thousandth of a second to inhibit injection if a potentially unsafe condition exists. The system is unique among synchrotron light source facilities and several years of design, planning, and formal reviews were required to be sure the system would accomplish its task. Even though a series of simulations proved that “it’s nearly impossible to inject electrons down a beamline, the interlock system provides an extra measure of safety given the potential hazard,” explains Walter Barry, ALS Electronics Engineering Group Leader.

Now nearly five years after top-off planning first began, Engineering’s proactive safety measures have paid off for the ALS, which has been safely operating in top-off mode since February this year. Engineering Department Head Henrik Von der Lippe credits the success of the top-off to the matrixed engineers’ “well-established dialogue with the ALS to identify how safety can be performed and integrated in their operation.”

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