Particle Accelerators (Encyclopedia of Science)
Particle accelerators (also known as atom-smashers) are devices used for increasing the velocity of subatomic particles such as protons, electrons, and positrons. Although they were originally invented for the purpose of studying the basic structure of matter, particle accelerators later found a number of practical applications.
There are two large subgroups of particle accelerators: linear and circular accelerators. Machines of the first type accelerate particles as they travel in a straight line, sometimes over very great distances. Circular accelerators move particles along a circular or spiral path in machines that vary in size from less than a few feet to many miles in diameter.
The Van de Graaff accelerator
One of the earliest particle accelerators developed was invented by Alabama-born physicist Robert Jemison Van de Graaff (1901967) in about 1929. The machine that now bears his name illustrates the fundamental principles on which all particle accelerators are based.
(The entire section is 2432 words.)
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