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Experienced Physicist Looking to construct Particleaccelerator

  1. Jul 13, 2010 #1
    I am an aspiring physicist looking to construct a functioning small-scale particleaccelerator for my 8th grade science fair. I am aware of the complexity of this endeavor and have multiple means of completing it at my disposal, including some very generous parents.
    My interest and credibility in the field of particle and nuclear physics has spawned from my completion of a Inertial Electrostatic Containment fusion device (a fusor) for my 7th grade science fair.
    Unfortunately, I am still inexperienced with many aspects of particle acceleration and so I am here seeking the aid of professionals.
    I first planned to construct a cyclotron, as I have a high-voltage power source (15 keV) and would prefer a somewhat high yield from the device. However, I am now leaning to constructing a linear accelerator, due to its ease of construction (but I am skeptical of how much juice I would be able to get out of it.)
    Could I use a Van De Graff generator to power a simple tubular Linac?
    I have done extensive research in past months and would like to complete this project by February, 2011.
    I am looking forward to hearing from my fellow physicists for instruction, tips or even criticism.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 13, 2010 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    You are not an experienced physicist - you are an 8th grader.

    Anything involving high voltage is dangerous. It would be irresponsible to encourage an 8th grader to work with high voltage. If the 8th grader is irresponsible enough to misrepresent himself as an "experienced physicist", this becomes doubly so.
  4. Jul 13, 2010 #3
    If you have a television that uses a Cathode Ray to project images, I would suggest you extract it with parental supervision. This would be the most efficient way to demonstrate a particle accelerator - you're accelerating electrons.
  5. Jul 13, 2010 #4
    I can only define my "experience" in the field of physics as being my scientific achievements; I don't recall any of history's great scientists being judged on their age. I responsibly figure that after achieving the successful construction of a cloud chamber, Fusion reactor (15 keV and up) and a Van De Graaff, I possess the experience necessary to take on the relatively meager endeavor of a small particleaccelerator. I joined the field of physics to make achievements of science in a respectable manner, a goal that common opinion, though understandable, will not keep me from.
    I thank Kevin_Axion for the tip. I have considered using a Cathode Ray tube, but I would honestly like to have more experience with designing the electromagnet assembly and the particle source myself.
    Any suggestions?
  6. Jul 13, 2010 #5
    Your interest in physics is laudable and I don't want to discourage you. But I must warn you that the best thing you and your parents could do for you is to take a year or so to study all the *genuine life threatening hazards* in the work you contemplate.

    For example, at 15kv, do you know how many x-rays your accelerator will create and where the deadly beams will be directed? Do you know the dielectric strength of the insulators in your equipment so you don't electrocute someone?
    Unless you can calculate how much "juice" your device might create or how deadly the juice is, you should not build it. Learning the limits is legitimate physics for your stage of professional development and I dare say you need it badly.

    Look up Louis Slotin and ask yourself if you're even as careful as he was.
  7. Jul 13, 2010 #6
    I agree. The true issue here is not so much the technicality of his endeavor, but the mental/emotional maturity to learn about, understand and APPLY safety standards.
    He seems to be doing well with some technical aspects. If he combines that with a responsible awareness of safety he will do even better.
  8. Jul 13, 2010 #7
    You are heading down a very dangerous road playing with 15KV. I suggest you abandon this venture immediately before you end up killing yourself or someone else.
  9. Jul 14, 2010 #8
    I've worked on particle accelerators for a long time.

    It's not difficult to build a small one but as everyone has pointed out it's exceptionally dangerous.
    Not only are the voltages involved dangerously high, if you succeed, you will produce radiation at a level that's likely to be almost immediately fatal .

    Real accelerators are usually sealed in specially built rooms with walls several feet thick with sophisticated safety systems to prevent accidents.

    Many of the Physicists who worked on this stuff before it was fully understood died as a result.
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