Particle Accelerator - Types and Applications

Particle accelerators are machines used exclusively to propel charged particles or ions to great speed or energy using electromagnetic fields. It also certain them we well-defined beams.

Types of Particle Accelerator

The particle accelerator is basically of two types, Electrostatic and electrodynamics accelerators.

The Electrodynamics or Electromagnetic particle accelerator

This mechanism involves electron discharge to achieve high voltage. Dynamic fields are incorporated to accelerate particles to very high energies. The electromagnetic acceleration is achieved by using dynamic fields (Oscillating radio-frequency fields or resonant circuit or non-resonant magnetic induction).

This class of accelerator was first developed during the year 1920, they form the basis for all modern large-scale accelerator. In these accelerators, the output energy is not limited by the strength of the accelerating field because the particles here can pass through the same accelerating field multiple numbers of times. The Electrodynamics particle accelerator are of two types they are-

  1. Linear accelerator:- Linear particle accelerator in short linac accelerate particles along the straight line. Here the subatomic particle or ion which is to be accelerated is subjected to a series of oscillating electric potential along linear beamline.
  2. Circular accelerator:- The accelerating particles are made to take a circular path or roughly circular path using a magnetic field.

Examples for Electrodynamics or electromagnetic particle accelerator are-

  1. Magnetic induction accelerator
    1. Betatron
    2. Linear Induction Accelerator
  2. Linear accelerator
  3. Circular or cyclic RF accelerators
    1. Cyclotrons
    2. Synchrocyclotrons and isochronous cyclotrons
    3. Synchrotron
    4. Electron synchrotron
    5. Storage rings
    6. Synchrotron radiation sources
    7. FFAG Accelerator

Electrostatic accelerator

They use the static electric field to accelerate particles. In this class, achievable kinetic energy for the particle is dependent on the accelerating voltage, which is limited by electrical breakdown. The simple small-scale example of this class of accelerator is Cathode-Ray-Tube. The most common examples are Van de Graaff generator and Cockcroft Walton generator

Applications of Particle Accelerator:

The high energy beams produced using particle accelerators are mainly used in applied and fundamental science research. They are also used by industrial and technical fields. There are over 30000 accelerators worldwide and about 80-85% of them are used mainly for radiotherapy and ion implanter. Rest is used for industrial processing, biomedical, low-energy, and high energy research.

  • High Energy Physics:-

    For a most fundamental understanding of space and time, structure of mater, dynamics, physicists seek into simple kind of interaction at the highest possible energies(hundreds of GeV). The particle physicists use these accelerators to create a beam of fundamental particles like an electron, positron, proton, and antiproton. These beams with extremely high energy are made it interact with each other or with simple nuclei. The highest energy and the largest particle accelerator of this class is Large Hadron Collider(LHC) at CERN.

  • Isotope production and Nuclear Physics applications

    The beam of bare atomic nuclei is used to investigate interaction, structure, and properties of nuclei themselves of condensed matter at very high temperature and densities. Nuclear physicists and cosmologist used this mechanism to develop models which replicate the origin of the universe. Here nuclei are made to collide at very high energy range. Largest of this class is Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

  • Particle therapy and Low-energy machines
  • At low energies, the beam of accelerated particles is used in the treatment of cancers(Radiotherapy). Low energy particle accelerators like,

    • Cathode-Ray-Tubes are used in display machines.
    • Ion implanter used to manufacture Integrated Circuits.
    • Cockcroft Walton generator used to convert AC to High energy DC etc.
  • Synchrotron radiation

    The synchrotron accelerates the electrons in the magnetic field to very high energy to emit a bright and coherent beam of high energy photons. They are mainly used to atomic structure in the areas of chemistry, biology, technology, and condensed matter physics etc.

These advantages are at the cost of minor hazardous radiations. Skilled operators are hired for the successful operation of these machines.

Physics Related Topics:

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