Honey, I Shrunk The Particle Accelerator

By sending a beam of particles through plasma, researchers were able to accelerate those particles efficiently without large equipment like the Large Hadron Collider.

AsianScientist (Oct. 23, 2018) – An international team of scientists has devised a compact platform to accelerate particles to high energies. This could potentially shrink the size of future particle accelerators and lower their costs. They reported their findings in the journal Nature.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) is the largest particle accelerator in the world. It lies 175 meters beneath the French-Swiss border with a circumference of 27 kilometers. The LHC was what helped scientists uncover the Higgs boson, the final particle predicted by the Standard Model in 2012.

Following the discovery of the Higgs boson, a primary scientific goal of high energy physicists has been to characterize the properties of this new particle and to discover other high-energy physics phenomena. However, the technologies used to produce and characterize the Higgs boson are bulky and can only be improved at great expense. Hence, there is a need to make high-energy accelerators smaller and more affordable.

In this study, an international team of physicists, working on the Advanced Proton Driven Plasma Wakefield Acceleration Experiment (AWAKE) at CERN, has found a way to shrink future particle accelerators.

Typically, particle physics experiments use oscillating electric fields, called radiofrequency cavities, and high-powered magnets to accelerate particles to high energies. As an alternative cost-cutting option to accelerate particles more efficiently, the authors of the paper proposed sending a beam of either electrons, protons, or a laser through a cloud of ionized gas known as plasma.

Free electrons in the plasma move toward the beam, but overshoot it, then come crashing back, creating a bubble structure behind the beam and producing intense electric fields. If other particles are then injected into the wake of this beam, they can be accelerated in a shorter amount of time, with an electric field more than ten times stronger.

The researchers demonstrated the capability of their platform to accelerate electrons up to 2 GeV in approximately ten meters of plasma, measured using a magnetic spectrometer. This technique has the potential to accelerate electrons to the TeV scale in a single accelerating stage.

“This latest achievement could enable engineers to drastically reduce the size of future particle accelerators, cutting down on the vast amounts of money normally required to build them,” said study co-author Professor Moses Chung of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology, South Korea.

“The high-energy particle collisions these facilities produce enable physicists to probe the fundamental laws of nature, providing the basis for advancements in a huge variety of different fields.”

The article can be found at: Adli et al. (2018) Acceleration of Electrons in the Plasma Wakefield of a Proton Bunch.


Source: Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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