When you think of particle accelerators, you might think of something like CERN. Large Hadron Collider (LHC): A multibillion-dollar colossus tens of miles wide and crossing borders in the name of figuring out how the universe works.
But particle accelerators come in many different forms.There is Over 30,000 Accelerator of today’s world. Some of them, including the LHC, are designed to reveal the secrets of the universe, but the majority have a much more earthly purpose. They are used for everything. generate a bright beam of light to Manufacturing of electronic equipment to Body imaging and cancer treatment.Actually, a hospital Can buy Room-sized medical accelerators are available for just a few hundred thousand dollars. And as of last month, scientists have made another interesting addition to the list. It is the smallest particle accelerator ever.
Physicists have built an accelerator the size of a coin. publication their job is Nature The device is just a technology demo, but its creators hope it opens the door to even smaller accelerators that fit on silicon chips.
“I think this paper is really interesting and cool physics for sure, and this is an effort that’s been going on for a long time,” he says. Howard MilchbergHe is a physicist at the University of Maryland but was not involved in the study.
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This compact accelerator is more than just a Lilliputian LHC. Depending on its operational calendar, the LHC fires protons or nuclei of lead atoms around a large circle. This small accelerator instead shoots electrons in a straight line.
Numerous other linear electron accelerators exist, including the two-mile-long linear electron accelerator that is currently being dismantled. Stanford Linear Collider. Traditionally, electron accelerators enhance a projectile by firing it through a metal cavity (usually made of copper) containing a convulsing electromagnetic field. The chamber thus pushes particles along like a surfer on a radio wave.
But some physicists think these old-fashioned accelerators aren’t ideal. Metal cavities are error prone. It is also cumbersome and requires extensive equipment. The researchers’ new accelerator instead uses precise laser shots to push electrons out.
Physicists have been trying to create laser accelerators since the 1960s. Called photonic accelerators after the study of light, they are smaller and more cost-effective than cavity-based accelerators. But it’s only in the last decade that lasers have become precise and affordable enough to make even experimental photonic accelerators practical.
Therefore, miniaturization introduces a series of difficult obstacles. A major obstacle was the fact that engineers did not have the advanced technology needed to make the small parts of small accelerators.
Take, for example, the coin-sized accelerator that researchers tried to create. First, electrons are generated by reusing parts of an electron microscope. The device then pushes electrons into the colonnades. The colonnade consists of two rows of hundreds of silicon pillars, each just 2 micrometers high, with even smaller gaps between the rows. When the laser hits the top of the column, it creates an electric field that boosts the electrons pushed inside, at least on paper.
“It’s very difficult to create such small features with sufficient precision,” he says. tomas kloba, a physicist at the Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany and one of the authors of the paper. “You need really top-of-the-line devices. These aren’t cheap devices, and these aren’t the devices that were available in the ’90s.”
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However, chip manufacturing is constantly evolving. Now, Chlouba and his colleagues were able to rely on a technology that is already commonplace in the world of semiconductor manufacturing. They created a successful prototype. The device can deliver only about one electron per second, which is tiny by particle accelerator standards. (The average wire in the average device in your home carries hundreds of billions of times more electrons.) Furthermore, the electrons have about the same energy as the electrons in an old-fashioned cathode ray tube television. . This is also tiny by particle accelerator standards.
As a result, “we don’t know how practical it will be,” Milchberg says. Placing more electrons in the portico is like hitting a target with a shotgun blast, he says.
In fact, Chlouba makes it clear that he and his colleagues are far from using this accelerator for anything resembling real-world applications. If we want to achieve that, we need to generate more electrons with higher energies. Milchberg says it’s also not clear whether batches of electrons can fit together under the colonnade without being torn apart by negative charges.
But if researchers succeed in overcoming these hurdles, Krouva can imagine numerous applications for particle accelerators that could be placed on standard silicon chips. Medical professionals are already using electron accelerators to treat skin cancer. With that in mind, some doctors might imagine an accelerator small enough to be inserted into the body via an endoscope. “It’s small, it’s cheap, and it fits anywhere,” Krouva says.