Inquiring Minds


Questions About Physics

Using an accelerator to create a new element

Hello,

My name is Andrew and I was wondering if this is the right email forum for my question. I am only 11 so my question is as follows: I am thinking of creating a new element and I need a particle accelerator to do it, so I was wondering if I could use yours. I also have some others ideas. Please contact me A.S.A.P.

Thank you for reading this e-mail.

Sincerely,

Andrew


Dear Andrew,

Thank you for your email. I'm glad to hear from a young person who would like to contribute and advance our understanding of matter.

Yes, you are absolutely right: To create a new element, scientists rely on accelerators. As a matter of fact, physicists need to accelerate the right kind of particle and shoot it with the right kind of energy on a target made out of the right kind of material. It is important to pay attention to many details.

There are many different types of accelerators, accelerating different kinds of particles to different energy levels. The accelerators at Fermilab are too powerful for creating a new element. Our best accelerator is powerful enough to make protons burst. We use our accelerators to see what is inside a proton. To make a new element - the research project you have in mind - you actually don't want protons to burst. You actually want many protons and neutrons to "stick together," all of them remaining intact. For this, you need accelerators that have less power than the Fermilab accelerators. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is one of the labs that has accelerators with the right energy. As a matter of fact, scientists at that lab created element 106. You can read about it at the following Web page:
http://www.lbl.gov/Science-Articles/Research-Review/Magazine/1994/seaborgium -mag.html

To actually be able to use an accelerator, scientists need to write research proposals and compete for beam time. As you can imagine, there are many people with great ideas, but there are only a limited number of accelerators, and money is limited too. You need to think about why your research project should have high priority and explain how you would detect your new element.

To learn more about accelerators and beams, I suggest you look at these Web pages:
The World of Beams: http://cbp-1.lbl.gov/
Accelerators at Fermilab: http://www.fnal.gov/pub/inquiring/physics/accelerators/index.html

And to learn about what we find when a proton bursts open, you can explore the "Quark Dance" Web pages: http://quarkdance.org/

I hope this provides you with plenty of information to pursue your research.

Best wishes,

Kurt Riesselmann Fermilab Public Affairs

Back to Questions About Physics Main Page


last modified 8/27/2002   physicsquestions@fnal.gov