Indian scientists have devised the world's first table-top accelerator that can rev up neutral particles to high speeds, in dramatic research that opens up new possibilities in making high finesse electronic gadgets.
Scientists at Mumbai's Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) have shown that neutral atoms can be sped up within millimetres to ultra high speeds. The research by the physicists at TIFR's Ultra Short Pulse High Intensity Lab was published on Monday in the highly reputed journal Nature Physics.
"The world's been trying to create particle accelerators at table-top scales for a decade now using lasers, but no one till now has managed one for neutral particles," TIFR team leader, Professor M Krishnamurthy told HT. "We're the first."
Particle accelerators - like the one at CERN in Geneva where scientists announced last year that they may have found the Higgs Boson - are typically mammoth doughnut-shaped machines, often several kilometres in diameter.
But over the past 10 years, as applications of high-powered particle beams have increased - ranging from cancer treatment to understanding the fundamental laws of nature - scientists across the world have worked on crunching sizes of these accelerators to small scales.
Scientists have developed a series of accelerators that use electric fields to propel electrons - charged particles - to high speeds. But charged particles are inferior to accelerated neutral particles in fine electronic gadgetry.
Krishnamurthy's student R Rajeev, in his PhD research, managed to show that atoms could be stripped of electrons, accelerated through high speeds and then reunited with the electrons at those speeds - all in a few millimetres.
The concept devised by the TIFR scientists is also nearly 100% efficient - it manages to reconvert all the ions back to neutral atoms after their acceleration.