How does particle accelerator work?

so as I continue with the book I am reading right now about particle physics I will write about the basics behind particle accelerators.

There are several types of accelerators, they can be divided into groups by either the energy they can create or what kind of particles they are colliding, some accelerators even do not have this circle but they rather just hit some big target.

Inside accelerator you will surely have some great detector which is going to collect the data for you. In Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in CERN there are two main detectors: ATLAS and CMS. There are two so you can compare their results.

Those detectors are huge, ATLAS has 21 meters in diameter.
Then there is the tube in which you have got those particles running. In LHC there are protons in both direction. Those protons are taken from little bottle with hydrogen, this bottle would serve for billions of years because there are 10^27 particles inside.

When you take these particles you will speed them up. The particles in LHC those are protons are separated to groups. Between each group is seven meters of vacuum. In each of those clouds of protons are 100 billions of protons. This cloud can get thin as 1% of millimeter right before collision.

Protons are all positively charged so it is hard to keep them in the cloud. Because of their charge, you can speed them up using magnets. To get the top speed you have to use extremely strong magnets, which means electromagnets [1]. Those magnets will speed the particles to 99.999996% of speed of light, so obviously that is where theory of relativity comes to role, for example those particles are not spheres but rather pies because of their huge speeds — effects of relativity.

After you speed up those particles you are going to collide them. This happens at the detectors which are going to measure all the stuff that is flying away from the collision. You may identify particles by their direction of traveling, by this you may know their charge. Also how deep they were able to fly. Mions for example have longer life times than most other particles so they are able to fly through the accelerator, while bosons w and z or tauon have such a low life time that they wont fly very far and most of the time you are going to observe their products rather that those particles alone.


[1] Electromagnets are magnets powered by electricity because when you have electricity, it creates (electro)magnetic field. This gets stronger the stronger is the current. In particle accelerators it can get so strong that the magnets would melt at a moment because of friction with electrons, that is why they must be cooled to little over absolute zero, using liquid helium.

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