Five ingredients of a particle accelerator


ΔS ≥ 0 | ri-science

Did you know there are over 30,000 particle accelerators in the world? The design of particle accelerators is a creative process. Often it starts with just one person and their concept, but they all tend to have 5 key ingredients.

1 – Particles – where do you get them, how do you make them? Accelerators might use atoms with electrons split off, called ions, or the particles inside atoms themselves: electrons or protons.

2 – Energy – you need an acceleration mechanism, some way of giving the particles a push. Typically this uses electric fields.

3 – Control – once your particles are moving, you need to control them, to move them and focus them where they’re needed. This is generally done with magnetic fields.

4 – Collision – not all particle accelerators are ‘colliders’ in the traditional sense. They don’t all collide beams together like at the LHC. But in almost every case you do need to collide your beam of accelerated particles into something – this might be a fixed target to investigate a sample, or even directly into a person’s body, such as during medical treatments.

5 – Detection – there’s normally not much point doing all of this work unless you can then detect the outcome and learn from it. You need to measure what happens to the beam of particles when they collide with their target.
Find out more in our animation about how to design a particle accelerator.Find out more in our animation about how to design a particle accelerator.

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