Here’s how scientists accelerate particles to 99.99% the speed of light


By now, you might be familiar with the concept of particle accelerators through the work of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the monstrous accelerator that enabled scientists to detect the Higgs boson.

But the LHC is not alone — the world is equipped with more than 3o,000 particle accelerators that are used for a seemingly endless variety of tasks. Some of these machines, like the LHC, accelerate particles to nearly the speed of light to smash them together and probe the fundamental building blocks of our universe. Others are used to seal milk cartons and bags of potato chips.

Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York is home to one of the world’s most advanced particle accelerators: the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS II). The NSLS II will allow researchers to do a wide range of science varying from developing better drug treatments, to building more advanced computer chips, to analyzing everything from the molecules in your body to the soil you walk on.

When scientists accelerate particles to these crazy speeds in the NSLS II, they force them to release energy which they can manipulate to do a mind-boggling array of different experiments.

As electrons moving at nearly the speed of light go around turns, they lose energy in the form of radiation, such as X-rays. The X-rays produced at the NSLS II are extremely bright — a billion times brighter than the X-ray machine at your dentist’s office. When scientists focus this extremely bright light onto a very small spot, it allows them to probe matter at an atomic scale. It’s kind of like a microscope on steroids.

Here’s how the NSLS II pushes particles to 99.99% the speed of light — all in the name of science.

SEE ALSO: A year ago, scientists cracked one of Einstein’s greatest mysteries — now a bizarre new form of astronomy is emerging

First, the electron gun generates electron beams and feeds them into the linear accelerator, or linac.

In the linac, electromagnets and microwave radio-frequency fields are used to accelerate the electrons, which must travel in a vacuum to ensure they don’t bump into other particles and slow down.

Next, the electrons enter a booster ring, where magnets and radio-frequency fields accelerate them to approximately 99.9% percent the speed of light. Then they are injected into a circular ring called a storage ring.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

from SAI