• Question: What does accelerating protons achieve?

    Asked by u10rushbrookk to Ben on 27 Jun 2013.
    • Photo: Ben Drumm

      Ben Drumm answered on 27 Jun 2013:

      Hey 🙂

      Accelerating protons on it’s own doesn’t achieve much – what’s important is what we do with them…

      So we direct our proton beam at a heavy metal target and when the beam SMASHES into it (at 84% of the speed of light… neeeowm!) neutrons get knocked out (think of the proton as the cue ball in snooker, and the neutrons as the reds which get knocked everywhere when the cue ball hits them).

      We then direct those neutrons towards samples of things that scientists bring in to test, and the way the neutrons interact with the sample tells the scientist all sorts of things about what’s going on inside their sample.

      We’ve used neutrons to test washing powders, hydrogen storage fuels for cars, ancient artefacts and even chocolate!