Particle Accelerator Megapost

Wednesday, 17th May 2006 by

The Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) in California is funded by the US Department of Energy but operated by Stanford University. The SLAC has a 3km long underground linear accelerator which is the longest linear accelerator in the world and claimed to be the world’s straightest object. The building above ground on top of the accelerator, the “klystron gallery”, is the longest building in the United States.


The Advanced Photon Source (APS) at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois is another US based lab with a linear accelerator but this one uses a Synchrotron. A synchrotron is a circular accelerator that uses a magnetic field to turn the particles and an electric field to accelerate them. By careful tuning of these two fields particles can be accelerated to 99.999999% of the speed of light. Once particles get up to these speeds the experments can begin. The super accelerated particles are shoved through things, bent with mirrors and have other particles injected into the steam to see what happens.


These two circles that look like a sideways eight are the Tevatron at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois and make up the world’s highest-energy particle accelerator. Four miles in circumference, the Tevatron is housed in a tunnel about 30 feet below the big ring you see in the aerial view. The particles complete the four-mile course nearly 50 thousand times a second. Damn, that is fast.


The other big player in particle accelerators in CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, the world’s largest physics laboratory. CERN is located on the border between France and Switzerland and is otherwise known as the birth place of that thing called the World Wide Web. CERN have numerous particle accelerators but the biggest is the Large Hadron Collider. The LHC is currently under construction in tunnels that used to house the Large Electron-Positron Collider which ran from 1989 to 2000. This tunnel is 27km in length and 100 metres underground! It’s like something out of Half-Life! Unfortunately there isn’t very much to see from the air, the LHC is located somewhere in the area between Geneava airport and the Jura mountains to the North. I’ve been staring at the imagery for a while and I can’t make out any trace of it on the surface. Can you?

I’m sure there are many more accelerators out there to see but my head was starting to hurt from reading about particle physics. Feel free to post your particle physics related finds as comments on this post!

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