‘Accelerator on a Chip’ Could Help Make Portable X-Ray Source
The researchers used a laser to accelerate electrons to 10 times the rate than modern technology allows in a vessel smaller than a grain of rice, a SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory press release reported.
Most modern accelerators employ microwaves to boost the electron’s energy, this laser technology could make things more economical.
“Particles are generally accelerated in two stages. First they are boosted to nearly the speed of light. Then any additional acceleration increases their energy, but not their speed; this is the challenging part,” the press release reported.
This process accelerates the particles to almost light speed with a conventional accelerator. They are then focused into a tiny channel within a glass chip that has been patterned with nanoscale ridges. An infrared laser generates an electric field that stimulates the electrons.
“We still have a number of challenges before this technology becomes practical for real-world use, but eventually it would substantially reduce the size and cost of future high-energy particle colliders for exploring the world of fundamental particles and forces,” Joel England, the SLAC physicist who led the experiments, said. “It could also help enable compact accelerators and X-ray devices for security scanning, medical therapy and imaging, and research in biology and materials science.”