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50 Years Ago

New Atomic Accelerator

Excerpt from the December 14, 1963, issue of Science News Letter

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A new atom smasher for probing the inner cores of atoms, one of the three largest of its type in the world, is now in full operation at Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, Ill. The atomic accelerator, called the ZGS for Zero Gradient Synchrotron, will accelerate protons to 12.5 billion electron volts, then hurl them at target atoms in an extremely intense beam.

An aerial view of the central portion of the facility, dedicated Dec. 4, is seen on this week’s front cover.… The speeding protons are being used to learn more about the structure of protons themselves and other nuclear particles.


 Argonne’s proton accelerator had a bubble chamber, used to detect charged particles, that was the first such device to detect a neutrino. The synchrotron ran until 1979. The lab has since developed the Advanced Photon Source, which accelerates electrons to near the speed of light to generate X-ray beams used in particle physics and more. 

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