(a) Structure of the discharged capillary to produce the curved and straight plasma channel. (b) Spectrum distribution and calculated profile of the plasma density along the radial direction at the entrance of the discharged capillary. (c) Experimental setup for the measurements of laser guiding and electron acceleration. (Credit: Xinzhe Zhu et al., 2023)

Accelerating Electrons To TeV Levels Using Curved Laser Beams

There are many applications for particle accelerators, even outside research facilities, but for the longest time they have been large, cumbersome machines, not to mention very expensive to operate. Here laser wakefield accelerators (LWFAs) are a promising alternative, which uses lasers to create accelerated particles along the wake in a plasma field. One of the major struggles has been with reinjecting the thus accelerated particles into another stage of a multi-stage accelerator, which would be required to obtain energies closer to one TeV. In this area researchers have now demonstrated a way around this, by using curved channels for the laser beams (paywalled paper) which inject the laser beam into the continuous cavity. Continue reading “Accelerating Electrons To TeV Levels Using Curved Laser Beams”

Daniel Valuch Chats About CERN’s High Caliber Hacking

For those of us who like to crawl over complex systems, spending hours or even days getting hardware and software to work in concert, working at places like NASA or CERN seems like a dream job. Imagine having the opportunity to turn a wrench on the Space Shuttle or the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) — not only do you get to spend some quality time with some of the most advanced machines ever produced, you can be secure in the knowledge that your work will further humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe around us.

Or at least, that’s what we assume it must feel like as outsiders. But what about somebody who’s actually lived it? What does an actual employee, somebody who’s had to wake up in the middle of the night because some obscure system has gone haywire and stalled a machine that cost taxpayers $4.75 billion to build, think about working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research? Continue reading “Daniel Valuch Chats About CERN’s High Caliber Hacking”

Something’s Up In Switzerland: Explaining The B Meson News From The Large Hadron Collider

Particle physics is a field of extremes. Scales always have 10really big number associated. Some results from the Large Hadron Collider Beauty (LHCb) experiment have recently been reported that are statistically significant, and they may have profound implications for the Standard Model, but it might also just be a numbers anomaly, and we won’t get to find out for a while. Let’s dive into the basics of quantum particles, in case your elementary school education is a little rusty.

It all starts when one particle loves another particle very much and they are attracted to each other, but then things move too fast, and all of a sudden they’re going in circles in opposite directions, and then they break up catastrophically…

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The Mysterious Wobble Of Muons

You might think that particle physicists would be sad when an experiment comes up with different results than their theory would predict, but nothing brightens up a field like unexplained phenomena.  Indeed, particle physicists have been feverishly looking for deviations from the Standard Model. This year, there have been tantalizing signs that a long unresolved discrepancy between theory and experiment will be confirmed by new experimental results.

In particular, the quest to measure the magnetic moment of muons started more than 60 years ago, and this has been measured ever more precisely since. From an experiment in 1959 at CERN in Switzerland, to the turn of the century at Brookhaven, to this year’s result at Fermilab, the magnetic moment of the muon seems to be at odds with theoretical predictions.

Although a statistical fluke is basically excluded, this value also relies on complex theoretical calculations that are not all in agreement. Instead of heralding a new era of physics, it might just be another headline too good to be true. But some physicists are mumbling “new particle” in hushed tones. Let’s see what all the fuss is about.

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Smashing The Atom: A Brief History Of Particle Accelerators

When it comes to building particle accelerators the credo has always been “bigger, badder, better”. While the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) with its 27 km circumference and €7.5 billion budget is still the largest and most expensive scientific instrument ever built, it’s physics program is slowly coming to an end. In 2027, it will receive the last major upgrade, dubbed the High-Luminosity LHC, which is expected to complete operations in 2038. This may seem like a long time ahead but the scientific community is already thinking about what comes next.
Recently, CERN released an update of the future European strategy for particle physics which includes the feasibility study for a 100 km large Future Circular Collider (FCC). Let’s take a short break and look back into the history of “atom smashers” and the scientific progress they brought along. Continue reading “Smashing The Atom: A Brief History Of Particle Accelerators”

Particle Accelerators That Fit On A Chip

If you were asked to imagine a particle accelerator, you would probably picture a high-energy electron beam contained within a kilometers-long facility, manned by hundreds of engineers and researchers. You probably wouldn’t think of a chip smaller than a fingernail, yet that’s exactly what the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory’s Accelerator on a Chip International Program (ACHIP) has accomplished.

The Stanford University team developed a device that uses lasers to accelerate electrons along etched channels on a silicon chip. The idea for a miniature accelerator has existed since the laser’s invention in 1960, but the requirement for a device to generate electrons made the early proof-of-concepts difficult to manufacture in bulk.

via Scientific American

The electromagnetic waves produced by lasers have much shorter wavelengths than the microwaves used in full-scale accelerators, allowing them to accelerate electrons in a far more confined space – channels can be shrunk to three one-thousandths of a millimeter wide. In order to couple the lasers and electrons properly, the light waves must push the particles in the correct direction with as much energy as possible. This also requires the device to generate electrons and transmit them via the proper channel. With an accelerator engraved in silicon, multiple components can fit on the same chip.

Within the latest prototype, a laser hits a grating from above the chip, directing the energy into a waveguide. The electromagnetic waves radiate out, moving with the waveguide until they reach an etched pattern that creates a focused electromagnetic field. As electrons move through the field, they accelerate and gain energy.

The results showed that the prototype could boost the electrons by 915 electron volts, equivalent to the electrons gaining 30 million electron volts over a meter. While the change is not on the scale of SLAC, it does scale up more easily since researchers can fit multiple accelerating paths onto future designs without the bulk of a full-scale accelerator. The chip exists as a single stage of the accelerator, allowing more researchers to conduct experiments without the need to reserve space in expensive full-scale particle accelerators.

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Creating Antimatter On The Desktop — One Day

If you watch Star Trek, you will know one way to get rid of pesky aliens is to vent antimatter. The truth is, antimatter is a little less exotic than it appears on TV, but for a variety of reasons there hasn’t been nearly as much practical research done with it. There are well over 200 electron accelerators in labs around the world, but only a handful that work with positrons, the electron’s anti-counterpart. [Dr. Aakash Sahai] would like to change that. He’s got a new design that could bring antimatter beams out of the lab and onto the desktop. He hasn’t built a prototype, but he did publish some proof-of-concept simulation work in Physical Review Accelerators and Beams.

Today, generating high-energy positron beams requires an RF accelerator — miles of track with powerful electromagnets, klystrons, and microwave cavities. Not something you are going to build in your garage this year. [Sahai] is borrowing ideas from electron laser-plasma accelerators (ELPA) — a technology that has allowed electron accelerators to shrink to mere inches — and turned it around to create positrons instead.

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