Forget The 27 Km Long LHC, These Table-Top Particle Accelerators Are The Future.

Table Top- Accelerators

As humans, we tend to be inquisitive about everything around us and the most intriguing questions that keep popping up in our mind every now and then are- How was the universe created? How do we know what actually happened during the big bang? -Well, particle accelerators may have an answer to these. Let’s have an insight on what particle accelerators are :

What Are Particle Accelerators?

Just like the accelerators speed up our cars, particle accelerators are the giant machines that use electric and magnetic fields to speed up elementary charged particles such as protons nearly to the speed of light and then bang them together. These collisions give rise to the conditions that existed during first moments of the big bang and physicists hope to understand how the seemingly dissimilar forces are actually described by a unified theory. As we keep getting closer to solving the mystery of creation of universe,physicists find some challenges in the way.

CERN's Large Hadron Collider is 27 Km long (Image: Wikipedia)


  • The physicists need accelerators of even greater power that requires lots of expense.
  • Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN is the world’s largest collider and is 8.6 km in diameter. Building even bigger machines would require lots of money, space, time and efforts.

Here comes to rescue TABLETOP ACCELERATORS producing electron beams in the 100  to 200 million-electron-volt(MeV) range. They may just fit in your pocket or a table top and are made possible by plasma acceleration.

A 9 cm-long capillary discharge waveguide used in BELLA experiments to generate multi-GeV electron beams. The plasma plume has been made more prominent with the use of HDR photography. Credit: Roy Kaltschmidt

Tabletop Accelerators:

An intense laser beam disturbs the plasma and gives rise to a wave that travels nearly at the speed of light. A new method of particle acceleration in which particles “surf” on a plasma wave promises to open new gateways for enormous applications in different fields. This phenomenon called the “Laser Wakefield acceleration” has the following features:

  1. A Titanium-Sappire Laser of 10 TWatt power fit on a large table-top and can accelerate a beam of 108 electrons to energies of the order of 1-200 MeV.
  2. The electron beam produced makes it an attractive source of producing short X-ray pulse.
  3. The accelerated e- - beam is a potential source of radiation for resolving extremely fast chemical & biological processes.

World record in tabletop-size particle accelerator

Using a table-top accelerator, US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab  have set a world record of accelerating electrons inside a 9 cm long tube of plasma to an energy of 4.25 giga-electron volts which is 1000 times greater than traditional particle accelerators.

We may say that plasma accelerators are progressing at an exponential rate, and researchers hope that this new technology will go beyond the microwave systems for high-energy physics in just half a decade.

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One comment

  1. Tony Stark.
    SCIENCE never limits itself,it's just us humans,and when we do it,we laugh back at how old minded we were.

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