General Question

NorbertFish4's avatar

What happens when you put a compound into a particle accelerator?

Asked by NorbertFish4 (99points) April 23rd, 2011 from iPhone

I know that when you put elements in a particle accelerator you can make more elements higher in the periodic table as their nucleuses fuse.
However what would happen if you put a compound (such as CO2, or H2O) in a particle accelerator?

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9 Answers

hiphiphopflipflapflop's avatar

The molecules would need to be ionized in order to be accelerated. A proton, positron or electron hitting a molecule in even a small and weak particle accelerator would blow it into individual ionized atoms and/or smaller ionized molecules.

HungryGuy's avatar

That has to be an urban legend. The beam path of a particle accelerator is under high vacuum in a sealed conduit. A person couldn’t possibly stick his head in the beam.

NorbertFish4's avatar

I agree @HungryGuy. even if it is true it couldnt possably be a proper particle accelerator working correctly!

Thankyou for your answer though; what exactly is a positron? And would a nuetron have the same effect?

Ivan's avatar


A positron is an anti-electron. That is, it’s the electron’s anti-matter partner. It has the same mass as an electron, but opposite charge and spin. An electron and positron can annihilate each other to form an amount of energy equal to their combined masses. And yes, a neutron would have the same effect.

As @hiphiphopflipflapflop said, particle accelerators can only accelerate charged particles, and thus neutral molecules such as CO2 and H2O couldn’t be used. Also, the heavier the compound is, the more difficult it is to accelerate, and the slower it goes. So it’s often better to use comparatively light particles such as protons or electrons.

NorbertFish4's avatar

Ok, thanks – great answer :)

hiphiphopflipflapflop's avatar

@HungryGuy the synchrotron portion, yes. He was probably fidling with something downstream of a target or a thin “window” on the beampipe . Normally there would be things like automatic interlocks to prevent accidents like this.

NorbertFish4's avatar

Would fireing an ion at a compound break it up like an electron, positron, proton, or nuetron?

hiphiphopflipflapflop's avatar

@NorbertFish4 give it enough kinetic energy and yes it would. If the chemistry was favorable, just coming close enough for the ion to disrupt a bond might do it too.

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