Particle accelerator that accelerates charged atomic or subatomic particles in a constant magnetic field. It consists of two hollow semicircular electrodes, called dees, in a large evacuated cylindrical box. An alternating electric field between the dees continuously accelerates the particles from one dee to the other, while the magnetic field guides them in a circular path. As the speed of the particles increases, so does the radius of their path, and the particles spiral outward. In this manner, a cyclotron can accelerate protons to energies of up to 25 million electron volts.
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In the cyclotron, a high-frequency alternating voltage applied across the "D" electrodes (also called "dees") alternately attracts and repels charged particles. The particles, injected near the center of the magnetic field, accelerate only when passing through the gap between the electrodes. The perpendicular magnetic field (passing vertically through the "D" electrodes), combined with the increasing energy of the particles forces the particles to travel in a spiral path.
With no change in energy the charged particles in a magnetic field will follow a circular path. In the cyclotron, energy is applied to the particles as they cross the gap between the dees and so they are accelerated (at the typical sub-relativistic speeds used) and will increase in mass as they approach the speed of light. Either of these effects (increased velocity or increased mass) will increase the radius of the circle and so the path will be a spiral.
(The particles move in a spiral, because a current of electrons or ions, flowing perpendicular to a magnetic field, experiences a perpendicular force. The charged particles move freely in a vacuum, so the particles follow a spiral path.)
The radius will increase until the particles hit a target at the perimeter of the vacuum chamber. Various materials may be used for the target, and the collisions will create secondary particles which may be guided outside of the cyclotron and into instruments for analysis. The results will enable the calculation of various properties, such as the mean spacing between atoms and the creation of various collision products. Subsequent chemical and particle analysis of the target material may give insight into nuclear transmutation of the elements used in the target.
Cyclotrons can be used to treat cancer. Ion beams from cyclotrons can be used, as in proton therapy, to penetrate the body and kill tumors by radiation damage, while minimizing damage to healthy tissue along their path.
The cyclotron was an improvement over the linear accelerators that were available when it was invented. A linear accelerator (also called a linac) accelerates particles in a straight line through an evacuated tube (or series of such tubes placed end to end). A set of electrodes shaped like flat donuts are arranged inside the length of the tube(s). These are driven by high-power radio waves that continuously switch between positive and negative voltage, causing particles traveling along the center of the tube to accelerate. In the 1920s, it was not possible to get high frequency radio waves at high power, so either the accelerating electrodes had to be far apart to accommodate the low frequency or more stages were required to compensate for the low power at each stage. Either way, higher-energy particles required longer accelerators than scientists could afford.
Modern linacs use high power Klystrons and other devices able to impart much more power at higher frequencies. But before these devices existed, cyclotrons were cheaper than linacs.
Cyclotrons accelerate particles in a spiral path. Therefore, a compact accelerator can contain much more distance than a linear accelerator, with more opportunities to accelerate the particles.
The spiral path of the cyclotron beam can only "synch up" with klystron-type (constant frequency) voltage sources if the accelerated particles are approximately obeying Newton's Laws of Motion. If the particles become fast enough that relativistic effects become important, the beam gets out of phase with the oscillating electric field, and cannot receive any additional acceleration. The cyclotron is therefore only capable of accelerating particles up to a few percent of the speed of light. To accommodate increased mass the magnetic field may be modified by appropriately shaping the pole pieces as in the isochronous cyclotrons, operating in a pulsed mode and changing the frequency applied to the dees as in the synchrocyclotrons, either of which is limited by the diminishing cost effectiveness of making larger machines. Cost limitations have been overcome by employing the more complex synchrotron or linear accelerator, both of which have the advantage of scalability, offering more power within an improved cost structure as the machines are made larger.
(Where m is the mass of the particle, q is its charge, v is its velocity and r is the radius of its path.)
The speed at which the particles enter the cyclotron due to a potential difference, V.
v/r is equal to angular velocity, ω, so
And since the angular frequency is
This shows that for a particle of constant mass, the frequency does not depend upon the radius of the particle's orbit. As the beam spirals out, its frequency does not decrease, and it must continue to accelerate, as it is travelling more distance in the same time. As particles approach the speed of light, they acquire additional mass, requiring modifications to the frequency, or the magnetic field during the acceleration. This is accomplished in the synchrocyclotron.
Note that in high-energy experiments energy, E, and momentum, p, are used rather than velocity, and both measured in units of energy. In that case one should use the substitution,
The relativistic cyclotron frequency is
The rest mass of an electron is 511 keV, so the frequency correction is 1% for a magnetic vacuum tube with a 5.11 kV direct current accelerating voltage. The proton mass is nearly two thousand times the electron mass, so the 1% correction energy is about 9 MeV, which is sufficient to induce nuclear reactions.
An alternative to the synchrocyclotron is the isochronous cyclotron, which has a magnetic field that increases with radius, rather than with time. The de-focusing effect of this radial field gradient is compensated by ridges on the magnet faces which vary the field azimuthally as well. This allows particles to be accelerated continuously, on every period of the radio frequency, rather than in bursts as in most other accelerator types. This principle that alternating field gradients have a net focusing effect is called strong focusing. It was obscurely known theoretically long before it was put into practice.
A Cyclotron's Long Journey Home One of the World's First Working Circular Particle Accelerators Returns to Berkeley Lab-75 Years Later
Feb 19, 2013; BERKELEY, Calif. -- The following information was released by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab): Seventy-five...