Particle slingshots of a different kind
Using plasma waves, "kiel field accelerators" bring particles over a few meters to energies that previously required kilometers. Thanks to the new technology, research facilities could become significantly more compact and powerful.
At the beginning of the 20th century, various chemical elements were still waiting to be discovered, not to mention the basic physical building blocks of the cosmos. 100 years later, not only were the last gaps in the periodic table closed, but also a number of elementary particles that make up everything known in the universe. The crucial tools for this knowledge revolution were the particle accelerators.
The long-sought Higgs boson appeared in 2012 at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) of the CERN research center near Geneva as the highlight of the development. The LHC is a 27-kilometre-long, ring-shaped accelerator in whose vacuum tubes two opposing proton beams, each with seven teraelectronvolts (TeV), collide. An electronvolt is the energy gained by an electron when accelerated by a voltage difference of one volt; a TeV is a trillion times that. The LHC is arguably the most complex and expensive scientific device ever built. The Higgs boson completed the so-called standard model of particle physics, which describes all subatomic processes. Since then, no new elementary particles have made themselves felt either in the LHC or in any other machine. So have we found everything there is to find? That's doubtful. The Standard Model lacks dark matter, which is abundant but invisible in space. Popular extensions of the theory predict even more particles. There are also other far-reaching questions, such as the predominance of matter over antimatter in the observable universe. With a more powerful accelerator, we might be able to solve such puzzles.
There are already plans for an International Linear Collider (ILC) that will bring the colliding partners to energies of 250 gigaelectronvolts (GeV) on a straight line …