Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sci-Tech @ MIT-Bates Accelerator

Dr. Genya Tsentalovich explains a
bit about particle physics, and the
creation of the universe.
The first visit of the Sci-Tech club this year began as we arrived at the MIT-Bates particle accelerator up the street in Middleton, MA.  After checking out way through the security gates, we signed in, got our group's radiation film badge, and met our guide.

Dr. Genya Tsentalovich turned out to be a really entertaining guide, and in addition to taking us through the MIT linear accelerator, taught us a lot about all of the technology that is used in running this machine.  It also turns out that he is from Siberia, which is home to one of the world's best Universities for particle physics.  According to Genya, a warm day at home in the winter is 0 F.  Woah - bring on winter!

In Physics the "Standard Model" explains how particles and the 
forces that connect them form the world we live in.

And here are some of the systems that we saw - join us on our next trip, or any Thursday when we meet to talk shop!  Next, our friends at Bates will set us up with some liquid nitrogen - wonder what we'll do with that?  Stay tuned!

High Voltage pressure relief system.  In case of a big-time electrical emergency, gigantic bolts of lightning will flow across these conductors and down to ground.

Genya assured us that it was terrifying.  Rare, but terrifying.

Here, Genya points out a fairly amazing part of the linear accelerator - a pulsed laser is piped onto a thin wafer of Gallium Arsenide.  Because Ga-As is a semi-conductor, this produces electrons, also since the laser light is polarized, the electrons produced are also polarized.  The super-control of electrons is one of the features that sets this accelerator apart from others around the world.

Describing how to control a beam of electrons with 
magnets.  Turns out it isn't as hard as you might think.

The linear accelerator isn't infinite, but it's pretty darn close. The machine itself is actually about two football fields long, and it could accelerate electrons to around 1 GeV.  At this energy, electrons travel at 99.999% the speed of light.

Just for comparison, the new CERN particle accelerator, called the LHC will have a top energy of 14 TeV, which is 1400 times higher.  Due to Einstein's theory of relativity, a proton traveling at this speed will have the same momentum as a housefly cruising around in your kitchen.  And that's a lot for a proton to have!

Here, Minh, Jake, Nick, Kevin, Jason and Raj check out a fairly

amazing system called the Siberian Snake.  This super-conducting
magnet system is used to keep the electron beam at Bates polarized.
The Siberian snake was just one of the many amazing pieces of 
technology the Bates physicists used to crank out world-class research.