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The History of Accelerators

The Cyclotron

In the cyclotron the particles are accelerated twice per turn by an alternating voltage.

Problems with electric breakdowns limit accelerating voltages to about a megavolt. Ernest Lawrence invented the principle of repeated acceleration where particles pass the same accelerating voltage many times. Then a more modest voltage could be used and still very powerful acceleration could be achieved. A powerful magnetic field made the charged particle follow an almost circular orbit and forced them to go through the accelerating field several times. With this circular accelerator, considerably higher energies could be achieved and the new invention led to a rapid development of the accelerator technique.

Ernest Lawrence received the Nobel Prize in 1939 "for the invention and development of the cyclotron and for results obtained with it, especially with regard to artificial radioactive elements."


Related Laureate

The Nobel Prize in Physics 1939 - Ernest Orlando Lawrence  »    

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