Particle accelerators: History

Experiments such as Rutherford's scattering experiment of 1911 had to rely on the use of naturally occurring energetic particles to probe the structure of matter.  The limits this placed on scientific investigation led to efforts to generate a greater supply of more energetic particles than those available from natural radioactive sources.

Early successes included the van de Graaff accelerator, which produces high voltages using a continuously recharged moving belt to deliver charge to a high-voltage terminal consisting of a hollow metal sphere; and the Cockcroft–Walton accelerator which achieves high voltages by charging a bank of capacitors in parallel and then connecting them in series.

Both types of accelerator are still in use today, most commonly for the injection of particles into larger, more powerful accelerators.

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