Photonics Dictionary


A synchrotron is a type of particle accelerator that uses magnetic fields to steer charged particles, typically electrons or positrons, in a closed, circular or elliptical path. The name synchrotron refers to the synchronization of the accelerating electric field with the increasing particle velocity as they move in a circular path. Synchrotrons are powerful tools used in various scientific and industrial applications, particularly in the generation of intense beams of synchrotron radiation.

Here are key features and components of synchrotrons:

Particle acceleration: Synchrotrons accelerate charged particles, such as electrons or positrons, to nearly the speed of light. The particles are injected into the synchrotron ring and guided by powerful magnets along a circular or elliptical trajectory.

Magnetic fields: Strong magnetic fields produced by electromagnets or superconducting magnets are used to bend the path of the charged particles, keeping them in a circular orbit. Radiofrequency (RF) cavities provide the necessary energy to compensate for the energy loss due to synchrotron radiation.

Synchrotron radiation: As charged particles are accelerated and deflected by magnetic fields, they emit synchrotron radiation — a form of electromagnetic radiation that covers a broad spectrum from infrared to x-rays. Synchrotron radiation is highly intense, collimated, and polarized, making it valuable for various scientific experiments and applications.

Beamlines: Synchrotron facilities typically have multiple experimental stations called beamlines. Each beamline is equipped with specialized instruments for a particular type of research, such as x-ray crystallography, spectroscopy, imaging, or materials science.

Applications: Synchrotron facilities are used in a wide range of scientific disciplines, including physics, chemistry, biology, materials science, and environmental science. They are employed for experiments that require intense and tunable beams of synchrotron radiation to study the structure and properties of matter at the atomic and molecular levels.

Light sources: Synchrotron radiation sources are often referred to as light sources because they produce intense beams of light across a wide range of wavelengths, from infrared to x-rays. These sources are used in diverse research areas, from studying biological macromolecules to investigating the electronic properties of materials.

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