By: Grace Millz and Devon Freer

Particle accelerators exist all over the globe. They exist in the largest numbers in Europe and North America. They can also be found in smaller numbers in South America, Asia, Africa and Australia. These are mostly large university laboratory particle accelerators. For example, in the United States they can be found in the following universities: Notre Dame, Yale, Stanford, Cornell University of California Davis, University of Indiana and Western Michigan University. Most of these are housed below ground due to size.

The way that particle accelerators work is like a hammer hitting a clock, smashing it apart to study its parts and then try and put it back together to see how it works. The first linear accelerator was created in 1927 by Rolf Wideroe for his PhD thesis. Another early particle accelerator that was created was responsible for the development of the atomic bomb.

Particle accelerators come in two basic types:
  • Linear - Particles travel down a long, straight track and collide with the target.
  • Circular - Particles travel around in a circle until they collide with the target.

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The difference between a more or less powerful particle accelerator is the kinetic energy of the accelerated particles. The units used in this field are the electronvolt (eV), tera electron volt (TeV) and gigaelectronvolt (GeV). The electron volt is a unit of energy equal to approximately 1.6×10−19 . joule. When an electron moves across an electric potential difference of one volt, an electron volt can be defined as the gaining or loss of energy. A particle accelerator is a device that uses electric fields to propel electrically charged particles to high speeds at a cylindrical target. An electromagnetic field moves the particles at an ever increasing rate. Everyday examples of particle accelerator are those found in television sets and X-ray generators. The largest and most powerful particle accelerators, such as the LHC and Tevatron, are used for experimental particle physics.

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A video of a linear particle accelerator can be found at the following URL:


Particle accelerators are used for many different things like medical treatment in x-ray machines and cancer radiation treatment, industrial and environmental industries. They can also be found in every day objects like cathode ray tubes in TV. They are useful for security purposes where they can be used as a non-invasive way of examining trucks and/or containers. The academic use of the particle accelerator is for research into things like particle physics. In particle physics research they investigate the sub-atomic particles and they way they interact with one another. A portable particle accelerator can actually be used to discover oil or gas. Boreholes are dug and the portable particle accelerator can be used to detect gamma rays which will tell the likelihood of finding gas or oil. It is hoped that particle accelerators will help to create cleaner and safer nuclear power. One of the most recent, greatest scientific discoveries is that of thediscovery of the Higgs boson which used a particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva.

How the Large Hadron Collider works can be seen in this video.


Multiple Choice - OK ~Mr. C.