Synchrotron radiation, once best known to high-energy physicists an an energy-sapping nuisance, is now emerging as an important new research area in its own right. First discovered in the early days of atom smashers, the radiation occurs when charged particles, such as electrons and protons; are rapidly accelerated. The more the particles are forced to speed up or change direction, the more energy they re-release as spontaneous radiation.

That energy is, in effect, wasted in high-energy physics, in which synchrotron radiation remains the principal limiting -factor in the design of new-machines. But for materials scientists, biologists, chemists, and microelectronics researchers, the phenomenon is proving to be more useful than previously thought possible. Because accelerated particles emit an unusually broad spectrum of radiation, scientists can isolate beams of nearly any wavelength from the “white light” of - radiation generated by modem, ring-shaped accelerators known as synchrotrons. Researchers have found they can...

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