Accelerator physics

Accelerator physics is a branch of applied physics, concerned with designing, building and operating particle accelerators. As such, it can be described as the study of motion, manipulation and observation of relativistic charged particle beams and their interaction with accelerator structures by electromagnetic fields.

It is also related to other fields:

The experiments conducted with particle accelerators are not regarded as part of accelerator physics, but belong (according to the objectives of the experiments) to, e.g., particle physics, nuclear physics, condensed matter physics or materials physics. The types of experiments done at a particular accelerator facility are determined by characteristics of the generated particle beam such as average energy, particle type, intensity, and dimensions.

Acceleration and interaction of particles with RF structures

Superconducting niobium cavity for acceleration of ultrarelativistic particles from the TESLA project

While it is possible to accelerate charged particles using electrostatic fields, like in a Cockcroft-Walton voltage multiplier, this method has limits given by electrical breakdown at high voltages. Furthermore, due to electrostatic fields being conservative, the maximum voltage limits the kinetic energy that is applicable to the particles.

To circumvent this problem, linear particle accelerators operate using time-varying fields. To control this fields using hollow macroscopic structures through which the particles are passing (wavelength restrictions), the frequency of such acceleration fields is located in the radio frequency region of the electromagnetic spectrum.

The space around a particle beam is evacuated to prevent scattering with gas atoms, requiring it to be enclosed in a vacuum chamber (or beam pipe). Due to the strong electromagnetic fields that follow the beam, it is possible for it to interact with any electrical impedance in the walls of the beam pipe. This may be in the form of a resistive impedance (i.e., the finite resistivity of the beam pipe material) or an inductive/capacitive impedance (due to the geometric changes in the beam pipe's cross section).

These impedances will induce wakefields (a strong warping of the electromagnetic field of the beam) that can interact with later particles. Since this interaction may have negative effects, it is studied to determine its magnitude, and to determine any actions that may be taken to mitigate it.