Accelerators everywhere: from the Big Bang to curing cancer

Image © Diamond Light Source Ltd Diamond Light Source uses a particle accelerator to produce intense beams of light, each of which is directed into a beamline so it can reveal the microscopic structures within matter. (Image © Diamond Light Source Ltd)

Researchers from several institutions are investigating how to improve and optimise performance of particle accelerators.

Particle accelerators rush high energy electrons, protons or ions very close to the speed of light, to understand the structure of matter and materials. In 2008 the Diamond Light Source and the Large Hadron Collider were opened, providing opportunities for the UK and global scientific communities to undertake some of the most cutting edge experiments to date.

Particle accelerators are the biggest scientific tools on earth, exploiting electric fields to accelerate particles to high energies and magnetic fields to steer and focus them," says Dr Nicolas Delerue from the University of Oxford.  "They can do everything from recreating conditions just after the Big Bang to finding new ways to treat cancer."

The trajectory of individual particles is chaotic. If a particle deviates by more than a fraction from its ideal trajectory, it can be lost. Computer simulations are very important to optimise performance and to help increase the effectiveness of the machines. Without such detailed simulations it would not be possible to build modern accelerators.

"Particle accelerators hold the key to new scientific discoveries.  Optimising their performance is essential to helping us understand our world," says Nicolas.

Web links

Exhibitors

Exhibitors Website: accelerators.org.uk/