New type of particle accelerator fired up for first time

A new type of particle accelerator designed as a proof of concept has reached a major milestone, successfully delivering a speed of 18 MeV.

The EMMA prototype is housed at the at the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) Daresbury Laboratory in the UK. It promises applications ranging from treating cancer to powering safer nuclear reactors that produce less hazardous waste.

Its engineers say it’s set to impact fundamental science and change the way that particle accelerators across the world are designed and built in the future.

A compact 20 million electron volt prototype, EMMA uses technology that’s simpler and less expensive than that of equivalent accelerators. The latest demonstration shows it’s viable, paving the way for more powerful yet compact accelerators in future.

“This is an outstanding milestone for EMMA, as well as for everyone involved in the CONFORM project, and is one that will define the way forward for this kind of particle accelerator across the world,” says  University of Huddersfield professor Roger Barlow.

EMMA is based on a ring of magnets which use their combined magnetic field to steer and focus the electron beam around the machine. The strength of the magnetic field increases as the beam spirals outwards while it is accelerated around the ring.

Because of the strength of the magnetic focussing, the beam’s displaced far less as it accelerates and spirals around the ring.  As a result, EMMA’s ring of magnets can be much more compact and the beam better controlled than in other accelerators.


The team’s next step will be to move towards full acceleration to 20 MeV and start detailed characterisation of the accelerator.

“This milestone marks the beginning of a detailed experimental programme that will provide all the information required for the design and construction of all future accelerators of this type,” says Susan Smith of STFC.