Silicon chip used to create a nano hair-sized particle accelerator

Scientists have used a silicon chip to create a particle accelerator less than a hair's width in size.

Published Fri, Jan 3 2020 4:10 AM CST   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 11:45 AM CST

Scientists use long particle accelerators to move particles close to the speed of light, this testing probes the capabilities atomic and molecular structures.

Silicon chip used to create a nano hair-sized particle accelerator |

While most of the testing is done on long mile plus-long particle accelerators, scientists at Standford University and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have created a nano-scale version. The teams created a vacuum sealed silicon chip that uses an infrared laser to accelerate particles, all within less than a hairs width. So how does this work exactly? Imagine a flat silicon chip, but etched in on its surface there are channels and flowing in these channels are electrons.

When the laser is activated it fires a burst of photons that then hit the electrons and accelerates them forward to almost the speed of light. So how does this help research in anyway? For the particle accelerator to be useful it needs to achieve 1 million electron volts (1MeV) or 94% the speed of light, and to reach that stage it needs to pass through 1,000 previous stages. Electrical engineer, Jelena Vuckovic explained that this might not be as difficult as it may seem due to the accelerator being a fully integrated circuit. Meaning all critical functions for it work are built right onto the chip.

Researchers are currently planning on packing those 1,000 stages of accelerations onto the chip by the end of 2020, which would then put them at the 1MeV target. If you are interested in reading more about this new prototype accelerator, check out this article here.

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