The latest tabletop particle accelerator, built by physicists at The University of Texas at Austin, can generate energy and speeds hitherto reached only by major facilities hundreds of meters long.
The results represent a huge step towards standardizing multi-gigaelectronvolt laser plasma accelerators in labs worldwide. (A gigaelectronvolt is the amount of energy gained or lost by an electron as it moves across an electric potential difference of 1 billion volts. Deep breath. OK.)
"We have accelerated about half a billion electrons to 2 gigaelectronvolts over a distance of about 1 inch," Mike Downer, professor of physics says in a statement. "Until now that degree of energy and focus has required a conventional accelerator that stretches more than the length of two football fields. It's a downsizing of a factor of approximately 10,000."
With the success of the 2-GeV accelerator, Downer says he expects 10-GeV accelerators of a few inches to be developed in the next few years, and 20-GeV accelerators of the same size within a decade.
One of the defining qualities of the 2-GeV accelerator is its ability to produce X-rays of femtosecond duration, the time scale on which molecules vibrate and the fastest chemical reactions occur. With X-rays of this brightness, equal to the caliber of those in large-scale facilities, researchers will be able to observe atomic structures in great detail.
In order to create electrons of the energy level required to produce these X-rays, the team employed laser-plasma acceleration, which involves firing a brief but intensely powerful laser pulse into a puff of gas, using the Texas Petawatt Laser. Though the method was conceived of in the 1970s, a lack of sufficiently powerful lasers to perform it has kept scientists limited at 1 GeV accelerators.
Eventually Downer believes they could drive an X-ray free electron laser, the brightest X-ray source available to science.
"I don't think a major breakthrough is required to get there," he said in the same statement. "If we can just keep the funding in place for the next few years, all of this is going to happen."
I gotta be honest, i don't understand a lot about this article. Butttt, isn't this very big news?
What are the limitations of this 1 inch accelerator as compared to the 200 yard ones?
If they've really been able to make it 10,000 times smaller without affecting it's capabilities couldn't we see many more accelerators around the world?
What is the cost of this one inch model compared to say CERN?
If more people have access to particle accelerators, or groups rather, won't we be able to learn a lot more about sub atomic particles?
Again, my knowledge on the subject is limited to high school level physics and articles I've read online, so bear with me lol
This sounds great but how big is the laser they are using? If it is two hundred yards long then have we really gained anything?
I answered my own question. It is housed in a fifteen hundred square foot clean room. So if you count that I imagine their size reduction factor goes from 10,000 to ten (just a guess). Still great but maybe a bit sensationalized or exaggerated.
Think about that a bit more, emneumann. Conventional particle accelerators use rings several miles long lined with super-conducting electro-magnets to accomplish what this fellow did with a 200 foot long chemical LASER.
So, no, you didn't answer your own question.
Kevin: Probable with that is those multi-mile long accelerators are also vastly more powerful. The LHC is several thousand times more powerful in fact. It's also a completely different type of accelerator.
It's best to compare apples to apples. They provide that in the article: Previous similar accelerators peaked at 1GeV, this one reaches 2GeV. So, it doubled the power. Now you would have to compare the laser sources, which I don't have access to that off hand. I can say though that petawatt is incredibly massive. This isn't the kind of laser you build just anywhere.
However, this does still bring a bit more bang to smaller accelerators. So, it's progress and a success.
So, Pete: This should show you why this is nice, but not some super big news. The article, and probably press release, was written in a way to make it sound like some super technological breakthrough, but it was really just the next incremental step.
Congratulations though to the university for pushing the boundary!
zechio, all good points. The point emneumann is overlooking is scalability, in much the same way power tool manufacturers use either more or fewer ganged together in a battery pack that is capable of providing engineers with the needed energy density.
Not much of an accomplishment. Why? Because the first particle accelerator was a tiny handheld device.
From the ground up of technology and the foundation of software, NSA wants to have its fingers in the new technology to ease its snooping!!!!
"Silicon Valley, NSA might be closer than we thought"
"....The Times was able to identify one company that has established such a team in the past: Skype. The Microsoft-owned company, the Times' sources claim, established a small team of employees to work on the "legal and technical issues in making Skype calls readily available" to the NSA and other law enforcement agencies. The effort, called Project Chess, was established in 2008 -- long before Microsoft acquired the company, the Times' sources say...."
I am not secretly eavesdropping on you. I am microscopically 'analyzing' your communication and saving it for further 'analysis' on the premise you might be a terrorist. The word analysis makes it legally ok.
I'm pretty sure this is old news. Tony Stark made one of these in his basement a couple of years ago. Nice try though.
This achieved 2 GeV. As the article states perhaps they can achieve 20 GeV in 1 decade.
CERN's 17 Mile long Large Hadron Collider however operates at 8 TeV or 8000 GeV so 4000 times higher then this machine. And the LHC could soon achieve collision energies of 13 to 14 TeV after the upgrades are completed.
So yes it can be interesting for certain applications. But not to replace CERN's LHC or LHC's replacements. The difference is far to immense for now.
Does anyone know if this is powerful enough to be a neutron source for a Thorium reactor?
@ dv8inpp ; This is an electron accelerator based in a free laser primary, not a neutron source. Americium or californium; with beryllium are our typical neutron sources. I didn't see anything about neutron propagation or electron stripping in this. This is photonic bombardment of electrons. Cause the electrons to vibrate, they begin exchanging charge and moving as a flow-provided you have electrons to keep pushing in that are higher in charge than what's pushed out.
I was thinking a conducting liquid medium, then went to the source article. Their research shows a marked improvement using a gas. News. The rest is, as the researcher notes; logical advancement towards application in the real world, which means ability to scale.
So if they are using a gas, just how much--ahh, entrainment. So, what's the gas? How close to superexchange is this? Can this stream be compressed either with an em field setup or use of an actinide?
So. Doubling eV mass in 1 inch. What's yer ionization rate in that gas again?