Particle Accelerator

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​“Nature Abhors a Vacuum”

Despite our growing familiarity with particle accelerators like CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, for most of us the idea of a particle accelerator is still abstract. Castor Design have produced their take on the particle accelerator in an effort to make the science behind the concept more approachable.

The Castor Design particle accelerator is based on research by physicist JJ Thomson at Cambridge in 1897. Thomson is credited with discovering the electron while passing a cathode ray between two electrodes in a glass vacuum tube. Castor’s particle accelerator operates in the same way.

With consideration given to the accelerator’s design, its hand-blown glass tube with machined electrodes is displayed on top of a black marble base with an overhanging shade. Its transformer and vacuum are presented alongside, housed in custom component boxes.

When electrical current is activated and a enough of a vacuum has been formed within the tube in order for electrons to travel without striking a molecule of gas, low­-mass particles accelerate to 30% of the speed of light, which strike other atoms and give off light as they settle.

The arced plasma light quickly stabilizes and “flows” in a straight line across the centre of the tube. As gas molecules undergo more collisions, emission wavelengths appear separated out into plasma bands, demonstrating the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. More columns indicate that the electrons’ energy in a given state is less defined. When the vacuum dissipates, the plasma reaches its extinction point and scatters.