Particle accelerators are a vital tool for research into matter at the atomic and nuclear scale. They are designed to generate beams of charged particles and anti-particles, which are accelerated to high energies before colliding with each other or with a target to release energy, to free particles from the nuclei of atoms or to create new particles.
At ISIS a particle accelerator is used to produce a high intensity beam of protons that is collided with a target to produce neutrons.
Elsewhere particle accelerators are commonly used for accelerating electrons to produce X-rays and also for accelerating deuterons, alpha particles and heavy ions.
There are three main types of particle accelerator. These are:
- The linear accelerator (linac)
- The ring or circular accelerator (cyclotron)
- The circular synchrotron