Researchers, led by The University of Texas at Austin and including international partners and TAU Systems Inc., have made a significant breakthrough in compact accelerator technology by developing a particle accelerator that is under 20 meters long and generates an electron beam with 10 billion electron volts (10 GeV) of energy. This advancement drastically reduces the size of high-energy accelerators, which traditionally span several kilometers. The new compact accelerator opens up potential applications in semiconductor testing, medical imaging and therapy, and scientific research.

The team’s technology, an advanced wakefield laser accelerator, utilizes a powerful laser to create plasma waves in helium gas, propelling electrons to high energies. A novel approach involving nanoparticles significantly enhances the efficiency of this process. The researchers aim to apply this technology in various fields, including testing the radiation resistance of space electronics, examining the internal structures of semiconductor chips, developing new cancer treatments, and capturing atomic-scale dynamics with X-ray free electron lasers.

This compact accelerator’s design is based on a concept first described in 1979, with recent advancements making it more powerful and practical for broader use. The team envisions future iterations of the accelerator that are even more compact, powered by table-top lasers capable of firing thousands of times per second. This development represents a major leap in making high-energy particle acceleration more accessible and versatile for research and industry.

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