Synchrophasotron: what is, principle of operation and description
In 1957, the USSR made a scientific and technical breakthrough in several areas: it launched the successful launch of an artificial satellite of the Earth, and several months before this event a synchrophasotron began to work in Dubna. What is it and why do we need such an installation? This question worried not only the citizens of the USSR at that time, but the whole world. Of course, the scientific community understood what it was, but ordinary citizens were perplexed when they heard this word. Even today, most people do not understand the essence and principle of the synchrophasotron, although they have heard this word more than once. Let's see what this device is and what it was used for.
What is a synchrotron?
Developed this setup to study the microcosm and the knowledge of the structure of elementary particles, the laws of their interaction with each other. The method of knowledge itself was extremely simple: to break a particle and see what is inside.However, how can you break a proton? For this, the synchrophasotron was created, which accelerates the particles and hits them on the target. The latter may be fixed, and in the modern Large Hadron Collider (it is an improved version of the good old synchrophasotron), the target is moving. There, proton beams move at tremendous speed towards each other and strike.
It was believed that this facility would make a scientific breakthrough, discover new elements and methods of obtaining nuclear energy from cheap sources that would be superior in efficiency to enriched uranium and would be safer and less harmful to the environment.
Of course, military objectives were also pursued. Creating atomic energy for peaceful purposes is only an excuse for the naive. No wonder the project of the synchrophasotron was issued with the heading "Top Secret", because the construction of this accelerator was carried out as part of the project to create a new atomic bomb. With it, they wanted to get an improved theory of nuclear forces, which is necessary for the calculation and creation of a bomb. True, it turned out to be much more complicated, and even today this theory is missing.
What is a synchrophasotron in simple terms?
To summarize, this setup is an accelerator of elementary particles, protons in particular. The synchrophasotron consists of a non-magnetic looped tube with a vacuum inside, as well as powerful electromagnets. Alternately, the magnets are turned on, directing the charged particles inside the vacuum tube. When they reach the maximum speed with the help of accelerators, they are sent to a special target. Protons hit it, smash the target itself and smash it themselves. Fragments scatter in different directions and leave traces in the bubble chamber. Following these trails, a group of scientists analyzes their nature.
This was previously the case, but in modern installations (such as the Large Hadron Collider), more modern detectors are used instead of a bubble chamber, which provide more information about proton fragments.
The installation itself is quite complex and high-tech. We can say that the synchrophasotron is a "distant relative" of the modern Large Hadron Collider. In fact, it can be called a microscope analog. Both of these devices are designed to study the microworld, that's just the principle of learning is different.
More about the device
So, we already know what a synchrophasotron is, as well as the fact that here the particles accelerate to enormous speeds. As it turned out, to accelerate protons to enormous speed, it is necessary to create a potential difference of hundreds of billions of volts. Unfortunately, it is impossible for humanity to do such a thing, so the particles were invented to accelerate gradually.
In the installation, the particles move in a circle, and at each revolution they are energized, receiving acceleration. And although such a feed is small, for millions of turns you can gain the necessary energy.
The principle of operation of the synchrophasotron is precisely this principle. The elementary particles, accelerated to small values, are launched into the tunnel where the magnets are located. They create a magnetic field perpendicular to the ring. Many people mistakenly believe that these magnets accelerate particles, but in reality this is not the case. They only change their trajectory, forcing them to move in a circle, but they do not accelerate them. The acceleration itself occurs at certain acceleration gaps.
Such an acceleration gap is a capacitor that is energized with a high frequency. By the way, this is the basis of all the work of this installation.A proton beam flies into this capacitor at the moment when the voltage in it is zero. As the particles fly through the capacitor, the voltage increases in time, which drives the particles. On the next circle, this is repeated, since the frequency of the alternating voltage is specifically chosen to be equal to the frequency of particle circulation around the ring. Consequently, protons are accelerated simultaneously and in phase. Hence the name - synchrophasotron.
By the way, with this method of acceleration there is a certain useful effect. If suddenly the proton beam flies faster than the required speed, then it flies into the accelerating gap with a negative voltage value, which makes it slow down a bit. If the speed of motion is lower, then the effect will be the opposite: the particle gets accelerated and catches up with the main bunch of protons. As a result, a dense and compact particle beam moves with one speed.
Ideally, the particles should be accelerated to the maximum possible speed. And if the protons on each circle move faster and faster, then why not accelerate them to the maximum possible speed? There are several reasons.
First, an increase in energy implies an increase in the mass of particles. Unfortunately, relativistic laws do not allow any element to accelerate above the speed of light. In a synchrophasotron, the proton speed practically reaches the speed of light, which greatly increases their mass. As a result, it becomes difficult to keep them in a circular orbit of radius. It is known from school that the radius of motion of particles in a magnetic field is inversely proportional to mass and directly proportional to the size of the field. And as the mass of particles grows, the radius must be increased and the magnetic field must be made stronger. These conditions create limitations in the implementation of the conditions for research, since technologies are limited even today. So far, it has not been possible to create a field with induction above a few tesla. Therefore, they make tunnels of great length, because with a large radius, heavy particles at high speed can be kept in a magnetic field.
The second problem is movement with acceleration around the circumference. It is known that a charge that moves at a certain speed radiates energy, that is, loses it. Consequently, the particles constantly lose some energy during acceleration, and the higher their speed, the more energy they spend.At some point, a balance occurs between the energy received in the acceleration section and the loss of the same amount of energy in one revolution.
Research conducted at the synchrophasotron
Now we understand what principle underlies the operation of the synchrophasotron. He allowed to conduct a series of studies and make discoveries. In particular, scientists were able to study the properties of accelerated deuterons, the behavior of the quantum structure of nuclei, the interaction of heavy ions with targets, and also to develop a technology for the utilization of uranium-238.
Application of test results
The results obtained in these areas are used today in the construction of spacecraft, the design of nuclear power plants, as well as in the development of special equipment and robotics. From all this it follows that the synchrophasotron is such a device, the contribution to the science of which is difficult to overestimate.
For 50 years, such installations serve the benefit of science and are actively used by scientists all over the planet. The previously created synchrophasotron and similar facilities (they were created not only in the USSR) are just one link in the chain of evolution. Today, there are more advanced devices - Nuclotrons, which have tremendous energy.
One of the most advanced among such devices is the Large Hadron Collider. In contrast to the action of the synchrophasotron, it pushes two particle beams in opposite directions, with the result that the energy released from the collision is many times greater than the energy at the synchrophasotron. This opens up possibilities for a more accurate study of elementary particles.
Perhaps now you must understand what a synchrophasotron is and why it is needed at all. This installation has made a number of discoveries. Today, an electron accelerator was made of him, and at the moment he is working at FIAN.