Issue
Fall
2006
Volume
19
Issue
2
Contact
Cornell University
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At Cornell

Energy Recovery Linac
The Future Gets Brighter

Footprints

Why an ERL?

George Hoffstaetter

George Hoffstaetter

X-ray beams from charged particle accelerators have become an essential tool in current investigation of all types of materials, from airplane wings to cell membranes and from pollutants in plant leaves to matter under earth-core pressures. The development of a new type of accelerator envisioned and invented at Cornell will provide more brilliant beams in shorter pulses and will move such investigations to new frontiers.

What Scientists Use Now

Today’s x-ray sources are based on electron storage rings, where the electrons get accelerated once, and then they circle billions of times while producing intense x-ray beams (shown at right). Like race cars on a curvy road, these electrons cannot stay on a narrow path as they go around a large number of turns. The electron beams thus obtain an unavoidable width, and the larger electron beam reduces the brightness of the x-ray beam. On straight stretches of their race, however, electrons can be confined to a narrow path. A straight electron accelerator could produce significantly narrower electron beams and therefore brighter x-rays than the best sources in operation.

 

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