The Half-Astrophysicist Blog

Good Bye to the Bevatron

I just saw a nice article on the dismantling of the Bevatron, a particle accelerator at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.  It was the largest and most powerful in the world when it was built and measured 185 feet in diamter.  This amazing device was built in the 1950s and discovered the anti-proton in 1955 (which led to a Nobel Prize, the first of four won by research conducted at the Bevatron).  The Bevatron was a fixed target experiment…it would accelerate protons around its ring and then shoot them off to a stationary target (many modern accelerators take two beams of particles moving in opposite directions and crash them into each other…the Bevatron could not focus beams well enough to pull this off).

The Bevatron discovered the first example of symmetry violation in quantum physics and resonances which led to the idea of quarks (which have now been discovered).

In the 1970’s, it was hooked up to a linear accelerator called the SuperHILAC.  This combination, sometimes called the BEVLAC, eventually allowed scientists to accelerate atoms of any element to almost the speed of light for experiments.  The BEVLAC contributed greatly to the field of cancer treatment by using different ions to attack tumors (ions give up most of their energy right when they come to rest, so a well targeted ion can destroy cancer cells while leaving the surrounding tissue undamaged).

But time marches on and eventually the Bevatron/BEVLAC was shut down in 1993 and sat unused for the last 16 years.  Now it is finally being dismantled (with the use of some stimulus funding).  It has passed the torch to larger and better particle accelerators such as the Tevatron at Fermilab, the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven, the Stanford Linear Accelerator, and the new heavyweight on the block, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

July 9, 2009 - Posted by | Science History

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