'Honey, I shrunk the particle accelerator'

7th December 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Dec 6, 2006 (AFP) - French physicists say they have developed a table-top-sized particle accelerator, a gadget that normally would need the equivalent of several large rooms.

PARIS, Dec 6, 2006 (AFP) - French physicists say they have developed a table-top-sized particle accelerator, a gadget that normally would need the equivalent of several large rooms.

Jérome Faure and Victor Malka at the ENSTA/CNRS laboratory near Paris injected electrons into a plasma wave created by a single intense laser pulse.

Their work, reported on Thursday in the weekly British journal Nature, builds on a two-year-old discovery in which scientists ionized helium, forming a plasma wave on which the electrons rode, like surfers catching an ocean break.

The French advance is to improve the technique so that the electron beam, previously unstable and highly variable, is stable and regulated, thanks to a second laser pulse that fires electrons like a slingshot into the plasma wave.

Particle accelerators are used in deep physics to try to understand the nature of fundamental matter and also have medical uses, such as destroying cancer cells by radiotherapy.

The work by Faure and Malka is still in its infancy, accelerating only electrons and not the other particles used in radiotherapy.

An early use would be to provide very short pulses of accelerated particles that could be used in radiography. It could delve beneath the surface of alloys, such as aircraft landing gear, to test for metal fatigue, Faure told AFP.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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