How Particle Accelerators Work

Learn about particle accelerators here.


“Particle Accelerator Magnets” by Brookhaven National Laboratory is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

By: Logan Xavier Lee, Journalist

How Particle Accelerators Work.


A particle accelerator is a machine with a metal tube that goes in a circle. The circle must be clean, no particles, dusst, anything. Then the particle accelerator speeds up particles with electric fields, an electric field is a region around a charged particle that pushes other charged particles. Electric fields speed up the other charged particles by using their force to push it to speeds close to light (186,000 miles/sec).

Once the particles reach that speed, scientists put atoms in the stream of particles to learn about them.

The following is a list of all the parts of a particle accelerator.

Electromagnets (conventional, superconducting) – keep the particles confined to a narrow beam while they are traveling in the vacuum, and also steer the beam when necessary

Targets – what the accelerated particles collide with

Detectors – devices that look at the pieces and radiation thrown out from the collision

Vacuum systems – remove air and dust from the tube of the accelerator

Cooling systems – remove the heat generated by the magnets

Computer/electronic systems – control the operation of the accelerator and analyze the data from the experiments

Shielding – protects the operators, technicians, and public from the radiation generated by the experiments

Monitoring systems – closed-circuit television and radiation detectors to see what happens inside the accelerator (for safety purposes)

Electrical power system – provides electricity for the entire device

Storage rings – store particle beams temporarily when not in use,on%20which%20the%20particles%20ride