Aurora Accelerator

Nicholas Nothom

Introduction

On July 26th of 2010, I found myself quite idle, and also overcome with motivation. These two human emotions seem to mix well, as they resulted in the beginning of the most difficult project of my life; the Aurora Accelerator. The goal I had in mind at the time was to build the most difficult thing I could imagine, and then fit it within the budget of a high school student. Inspired by Dr. Michio Kaku, I set my sights on making an electron accelerator. After being told over and over by physicists and engineers that what I wanted to do was impossible and preventatively difficult, I sat down for several minutes and tried to understand their points of view. After realizing that I did not understand their opinions, I disregarded all advice and continued forward anyway.

Awards

Design and Engineering

In the beginning, the accelerator was to be a circular ring about one meter in diameter. I planned to use several small electromagnets along the beam path to curve it, rather than a single gigantic magnet like most cyclotrons. This decision was made because a large coil would have been preventively expensive, however smaller coils are much more accessible. After realizing that a Cathode Ray Tube out of a television set is essentially a linear accelerator, I figured that would be a good source for most of the components, and so it was. The problem with using multiple small coils on a small scale is that they tend to interfere with each other. The solution to this problem was to space out the curves further. By the end of the project, The Aurora Accelerator had become somewhat large. The main ring stretched just over three meters in diameter, with a one meter injection pipe where electrons would enter the accelerator. The ring featured eight 45 degree bends, each with their own deflection coil. Each deflection coil was different, since they were all out of different television sets, but on average, about 4 volts would cause the beam to curve 45 degrees at each bend. Then, at 16 different locations around the ring were placed focusing coils. These coils 'squeezed' the beam into a tighter form, and also kept them from diverging off course. Keeping a focused beam resulted in higher energy particles since electrons propagate through plasma more efficiently than through a gas. The two accelerating electromagnets, located in opposite sides of the ring, accelerated the electrons to an energy of 1.2 Million Electron Volts. This calculation was first theoretically established, then confirmed (roughly) using an experiment where the beam was curved using a spare deflection coil into a series of narrow copper plates. I measured which plate was being struck by the beam with an oscilloscope and was able to determine the energy from the degree of curvature.

Uses

Using the Aurora Accelerator; I carried out several experiments. The first of which was observing the the amount of time dilation that the electrons went through. Using the energy of the electrons, I was able to find their velocity, and then through a Lorentz Transformation find the Lorentz Factor. It was measured that the electrons experienced a time dilation of 14%, meaning that to the outside observer, they appeared to be traveling 14% slower than they actually were. On average; each electron traveled around the ring approximately 220 Million times. Over that distance, the electrons traveled in time as well. By the end of their journey, each particle had slowed down in time by about four seconds. Another experiment that I conducted was in the area of electron tunneling. Essentially, the electrons were accelerated to such a high velocity that they were able to "tunnel" through solid matter. In this case, it was through a 6 millimeter thick plate of aluminum. This was measured by placing a smaller plate of copper behind the wall of aluminum, and measuring the voltage with an oscilloscope. Overall, the goal of this machine was to create a low cost "multitool" of particle physics, I think it achieved that goal. The Aurora Accelerator exceeded my expectations in most every way, and I am extremely proud of its performance.

Key Takeaways