Difference Between Cyclotron and Synchrotron

Cyclotron vs Synchrotron | Synchrotron Accelerator vs Cyclotron Accelerator

Cyclotron and synchrotron are two types of particle accelerators. Particle accelerators are very useful machines when it comes to the field of nuclear physics. The high-energy collisions of sub atomic particles give very good observations on the nature of the nucleus. For someone who is studying such a field, a thorough knowledge in synchrotron accelerators and cyclotron accelerators is required. In this article, we are going to discuss what cyclotron and synchrotron accelerators are, the principles these machines are based on, their similarities, applications and finally the differences between cyclotron accelerators and synchrotron accelerators.

What is Synchrotron Accelerator?

A synchrotron accelerator is a type of particle accelerator. One must understand the concept of particle accelerator first, to understand synchrotron accelerator clearly. When a charged particle is projected in to a magnetic field, it moves on a circular path. Particle accelerators are used to study the nature of atoms and sub atomic particles by making high velocity collisions of such particles and studying the collision itself and the products of the collision. A magnetic field is used in most of the cases to accelerate the particles. The practical method of obtaining high velocity collisions is by using two particle beams rotating in opposite directions. Using this method it is easy to obtain high velocity collisions with relative velocities as high as 99 percent of the speed of light. However, the theory of relativity states that there cannot be relative velocities higher than the speed of light. Therefore, a huge amount of energy is required even to accelerate the particle beam to a high velocity. A synchrotron accelerator uses a varying magnetic field and a varying electric field, which keep the particle beam on a proper circular path when the energy is increased. A particle accelerator is made of a torus with the ability to change the intensity of electric and magnetic fields inside the torus. The path of the particle beam is the circular path encased by the torus. The concept of the synchrotron accelerator was developed by Sir Marcus Oliphant. Vladimir Veksler was the first person to publish a scientific paper on synchrotron accelerators, and the first electron synchrotron accelerator was constructed by Edwin McMillan.

What is Cyclotron Accelerator?

Cyclotron accelerator is also a particle accelerator, which is mostly used in small-scale projects. A cyclotron is a circular vacuum chamber where the acceleration of particles begins at the center. The particles take a spiral path as they are accelerated. The cyclotron uses a constant magnetic field, and a constant frequency electric field to accelerate the particles. 


What is the difference between Cyclotron and Synchrotron Accelerators?

• Cyclotron uses a constant magnetic field and a constant frequency electric field, but the synchrotron uses varying electric and magnetic fields. 

• A synchrotron is made of a torus shaped tube, whereas the cyclotron is made of a cylindrical or spherical chamber.

• The synchrotron mode is used in most of the large-scale projects such as the large hadron collider (LHC) at CERN, but the cyclotron is used mostly in small-scale projects.