Scientists Create a Particle Accelerator That Fits on a Chip

Scientists at Stanford and SLAC have created a silicon chip that can accelerate electrons by using an infrared laser to deliver a similar energy boost that takes microwaves many feet.

In a January issue of Science, a team led by an electrical engineer, Jelena Vuckovic, conveyed how he carved a nanoscale channel out of silicon, sealed it in a vacuum and sent electrons through an opening while beams of infrared light were transmitted by the channel walls to speed the electrons along.

The accelerator-on-a-chip demonstrated in Science is just a prototype. However, Vuckovic said its design and fabrication techniques could be scaled up to deliver particle beams accelerated enough to perform cutting-edge experiments in chemistry.

“The largest accelerators are like powerful telescopes. There are only a few in the world and scientists must come to places like SLAC to use them,” Vuckovic said. “We want to miniaturize accelerator technology in a way that makes it a more accessible research tool.”

“We can derive medical benefits from the miniaturization of accelerator technology in addition to the research applications,” Solgaard said.

Click here to read more about Vuckovic’s research on his discoveries regarding the silicon chip accelerator.

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