Stanford Researchers Miniaturize a Particle Accelerator to Fit on a Silicon Chip

Stanford Researchers Miniaturize a Particle Accelerator to Fit on a Silicon Chip

by Stanford University, SciTechDaily

Stanford researchers build a particle accelerator that fits on a chip, miniaturizing a technology that can now find new applications in research and medicine.

Just as engineers once compressed some of the power of room-sized mainframes into desktop PCs, so too have Stanford researchers shown how to pack some of the punch delivered by today’s ginormous particle accelerators onto a tiny silicon chip.

On a hillside above Stanford University, the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory operates a scientific instrument nearly 2 miles long. In this giant accelerator, a stream of electrons flows through a vacuum pipe, as bursts of microwave radiation nudge the particles ever-faster forward until their velocity approaches the speed of light, creating a powerful beam that scientists from around the world use to probe the atomic and molecular structures of inorganic and biological materials.

Now, for the first time, scientists at Stanford and SLAC have created a silicon chip that can accelerate electrons — albeit at a fraction of the velocity of that massive instrument — using an infrared laser to deliver, in less than a hair’s width, the sort of energy boost that takes microwaves many feet.

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