Scientists Invented the Tiniest Particle Accelerator in the World

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world’s largest and highest-energy particle collider and the most massive machine in the world. The tunnel is 17 miles (27 kilometers) long, and between 50 and 175 meters below the ground. The LHC took about a decade to construct, for a total cost of about $4.75 billion.

According to the latest study, experts have designed a particle accelerator the size of about half the width of a human hair, 30 microns. The miniature device is called a dielectric laser accelerator (DLA) and could be the next version of accelerators that work in the megaelectronvolt (MeV) energy range. The microscale machine includes radiation mechanisms for cancer treatments, X-ray machines, and industrial scanning facilities, as well as other more.

“The idea is to shrink those types of particle accelerators down—the ones that operate on the MeV scale,” said lead author Neil Sapra, a graduate student at Stanford University, in a call. “A MeV scale and a low current are where the DLA shines.”

The Tiniest Particle Accelerator in the World

“If you look at the design, no human engineer would have come up with it,” Sapra explained. “I really don’t think I could have done this project without this inverse-design technique because coming up with a design is pretty difficult doing the classical approach.”

The new DLA design will need to scale up to about 1,000 jolts to get into the MeV range, though at the moment, it can administer one shock of acceleration to the electrons. According to Sapra’s team, the new prototype will take around ten years to be built. Regardless, it will be a huge help in so many fields due to its increase precision, most importantly, in the healthcare field.

“These integrated photonic circuits are based on the same methods that the electronics industry is built off of, so it’s not just making something smaller, it’s making something cheaper,” Sapra said.

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