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Science

Build Your Own Cyclotron 200

Posted by michael
from the DIY dept.
kenthorvath writes "This guy and his friend built their own cyclotron, capable of 1 MeV protons using spare parts and surplus science equipment. Anyone else happen to have a 4600 lb. magnet lying around?"
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Build Your Own Cyclotron

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 20, 2002 @06:41PM (#4491637)
    An alien experiment that went seriously south and created a massive black hole.

    Remember, kids, don't try this at home!
  • by MacOS_Rules (170853) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @06:42PM (#4491640) Homepage
    This is what seems to be a very cool application of putting old equipment to good work. And hey, if it turns out that it doesn't work, he has a cheep and effective form of birth control...

    *shudders* Me thinks of the advertisments for DIY permenant birth control... =O
    • by LordDartan (8373) <dthiery.gmail@com> on Sunday October 20, 2002 @07:21PM (#4491812)
      So, are you saying being around a 4600lb magnet is birth control, or being a big enough geek to have a 4600lb magnet is the birth control??
      • > So, are you saying being around a 4600lb magnet is birth control, or being a big enough geek to have a 4600lb magnet is the birth control??

        I don't have a 4600 pound magnet, (you insensitive clod), but that doesn't meant I don't want a 4600 pound magnet! (Surely that also qualifies as beeing geeky enough for birth control purposes!)

      • The magnet isn't the problem. Assuming you can find a 4600lb magnet you can probably build a cyclotron. The birth control comes in when you irratiate your entire neighborhood leaving you (and the milk man whos screwing your wife anyway) infertile.
    • This is what seems to be a very cool application of putting old equipment to good work. And hey, if it turns out that it doesn't work, he has a cheep and effective form of birth control...

      Do you mean the magnetism or what happens after your date asks you what it is?

    • This is what seems to be a very cool application of putting old equipment to good work. And hey, if it turns out that it doesn't work, he has a cheep and effective form of birth control...

      Well, hey. Chances are you're staring at a linear particle accelerator right now.

      Disconnect the high voltage regulator in your monitor and you'll throw off enough X-rays to cloud photographic film. The kinetic energy of accelerated electrons flying from the gun is turned into X-ray photons as they collide with the inside of the glass. The electrical energy, of course, lights the phosphors which bring you my many words of wisdom.

      Modern TV sets and monitors, of course, use a variety of methods to prevent the high voltage from the flyback getting to be high enough to cause lots of hard X-rays. The thick (usually leaded) glass in the front and sides of your monitor help to cut the rays down, as well as providing structural integrity to allow it to withstand the thousands of pounds of atmospheric air pressure with are trying very hard to crush it. But this remains a very critical design safety issue, and has gone so far as a Simpsons episode. (Remember Homer's old farmhouse, with the "Radiation King" TV set?)

      If you want to have an effective toy, yank out the electron gun from the back of the CRT, mount it at one end of a long piece of plastic or glass pipe, mount a really thin piece of sheetmetal at the other end, and at 6" intervals band it with smooth rings of metal connected to each other by 10 Mohm resistors.

      Suck a vacuum into it (vacuum pump), apply 500kV (from your homebuilt Van De Graaf generator) to the ring on the far end from the gun, apply 6V or so to heat the filaments and about -100V DC relative to the first grid in the electron gun to the cathode of the gun, and presto! you'll have a stream of electrons travelling at almost light speed out the other end. Essentially, beta particles, produced without a radioactive source.

      To a lesser extent, that's what the inside of your monitor's picture tube is being whacked with.

      Congratulations, Professor Science. You've just built your very own linear accelerator.

      Not extraordinarily high tech, I think Thompson did it, without the benefit of a modern CRT's thoriated cathode or the prior knowledge that it would work, sometime around the turn of the last century.

  • Kewl, now all I need is a few superconducting electromagnets and a large hold in the ground and I can build myself baby CERN.
  • by packeteer (566398) <packeteer.subdimension@com> on Sunday October 20, 2002 @06:43PM (#4491648)
    Does anyone have links to where you can find materials to work on this if you dont work in a lab. I am in high school and very interested in physics and it would be an awsome project to work on something like this.
    • by Artifex (18308) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @07:35PM (#4491865) Journal
      I am in high school and very interested in physics and it would be an awsome project to work on something like this.

      Where have I heard this type of thing before? [findarticles.com]

      You may think this is the ultimate chick "magnet," but personally, I think that even if fusion reactors only get a second place in the science fair these days [calhoun.edu], you should try to build a Tokomak [efda.org]. There's just something sexy about how they look [efda.org].

      After the fair, no matter how you do, you can take a promising date to see it, dim the lights and crank it up [usf.edu] and see if sub-nuclear particles are all that get excited. Who knows, maybe you'll finally discover the joys of practical applications for combinatorial physics, where books have only given you theories to feed your fantasies [wspc.com.sg]...

      (moderators: please don't "nuke" me too badly on this one)

    • It might be easier to build a linear accelerator [pelletron.com]. It is basically a bigger Van deGraf [amasci.com] generator, and (I think) much easier to build than a cyclotron to get a 1MV beam.
    • There's nothing special in the RF portions (except for the signal generator, but you could probably do just fine with a DDS synthesizer sold in many kits for amateur radio use)

      Haven't checked on the "student use" amp, but the high-power amplifier, the Ameritron AH-811A, happens to be a very common (and one of the cheapest) amateur radio tube amplifiers. (Mainly due to the use of three small and cheap 811A type tubes rather than single monster Eimac/Svetlana high-power tubes) - I believe the 3-tube 811A model is around 500-750 watts.

      Legal limit on the ham bands is 1500 watts, so finding HF amplifiers up to this power is easy as pie.

      As to why I don't know too much about the 50W driver amp - Most amateur HF rigs in the HF bands have 50-100W output, so can drive most tube amps (even the legal-limit variety) directly.
    • This guy [umich.edu] did it about 8 years ago, and he was in high school. You can see his two projects here [umich.edu] and here [umich.edu].

      Building a cyclotron is not that difficult technically, but finding all the needed material might be(high voltage for the magnet, and especially the vacuum pump able to get it down to about 10^-5 atmospheres...) In all cases, it certainly is an interesting project to take up if you have interest in physics, as it touches a lot of different fields of physics and teaches you a thing or two about how simple it can be to make such a complicated experiment work in theory, while being such a pain in the friggin a** in practice...

  • Magnet (Score:5, Funny)

    by RobinH (124750) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @06:45PM (#4491660) Homepage
    Anyone else happen to have a 4600 lb. magnet lying around?

    Yes, I keep it right here, next to my server backup tapes.
  • by shadowj (534439) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @06:46PM (#4491668)
    Looks like they've managed to duplicate one of the first cyclotrons [aip.org]. Question is, what are they going to do with it?
    • I know what i would do with it. As a high schol student very interested in physics i would like to see what some of the early researchers went through. Do you have any more links to sites about building these and maybe some info about safety?
    • by Monkey-Man2000 (603495) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @06:55PM (#4491704)
      Question is, what are they going to do with it?
      Same thing any good physicist does -- try to take over the world! :P
    • ... LEARN! Kind of like repeating 2500 year old geometric proofs. There are many practical considerations that can't be learned from plans and logs. Never the less, just looking at the picutes, you and I can learn a little about what it takes to generate RF and spin protons in a circle. Oh yeah, I forgot the other plan, to TEACH. It is a University, you know. Good for them, and us too.

      Safety tip: Ask the Radiation Safety Office for help.

    • by Guppy06 (410832) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @07:35PM (#4491863)
      "Question is, what are they going to do with it?"

      PROFIT!
  • Great! (Score:5, Funny)

    by dolo666 (195584) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @06:47PM (#4491671) Journal
    Now I can really get Spiderman by trapping him in another dimension! Mwhwhahahahha.
  • Amazing... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by neksys (87486) <grphillips AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday October 20, 2002 @06:49PM (#4491679)
    It never ceases to amaze me that amateur science enthusiasts are building stuff like that - from the home-made tesla coil of a few weeks ago, to home-built rockets capable of low orbit... it just blows me away. Granted, the devices they build are generally years, if not decades behind the "cutting edge", but the fact that average people can take a sound scientific principle and turn it into something physical for a handful of bills is wonderful. It is people like these that foster innovation and growth in the sciences - not multi-billion dollar research conglomerates. These DIY tinkerers are what science is all about - it is science for the sake of science, and by extension, for the sake of the world! They do it because they are passionate about what they are doing - not for the fame, or the fortune. It was politics and economics that made the decision to put a man on the moon - it is people like this that got us there.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Next on slashdot: building xray machines from discarded monitors for fun and profit.
    • by Fembot (442827) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @07:58PM (#4491952)
      "...but the fact that average people can take a sound scientific principle and turn it into something physical for a handful of bills is wonderful"


      Erm... the average person can't work a VCR let alone build a cyclotron... hell they probalby think a cyclotron is one of those exercise bikes from the shopping channel.

      • hell they probalby think a cyclotron is one of those exercise bikes from the shopping channel.

        Oh. No wonder the Bosons keep going strait to my thighs.
    • Re:Amazing... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by aelvin (265451) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @10:32PM (#4492616)

      It never ceases to amaze me that amateur science enthusiasts are building stuff like that ...

      According to Tim's web page [rutgers.edu]: "I am currently a graduate student in the Physics Department at Rutgers University. My primary area of interest is in Particle accelerators. I have worked at Fermilab in the Beams Division." Then it goes on to list accelerator talks he's given, accelerators he's worked at, and publications on accelerators he's written.

      So how exactly does that make him an "amateur science enthusiast?"

    • Re:Amazing... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jobe_br (27348)
      On this note, I'd like to share a thought I recently had: while driving one evening, it occurred to me that it might be an interesting endeavor to build a truly feature-rich home-theatre appliance, PVR, DVD player, component video outs, digital in/out - bells and whistles galore. Then it occurred to me that there is no (legal) way to DIY build a DVD player. With hardware decoding and all, just as a real player does. What's missing? Well, the keys for the CSS encryption, of course. Even without the DMCA, you can't just put your own hardware DVD player together, to my knowledge. Each manufacturer is assigned a key for CSS, if I recall - and you don't get one!

      Needless to say, I was irritated, angered and more than a bit disappointed at this revelation.
  • by MattTC (45020) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @06:58PM (#4491720) Homepage
    Ray: "You know, it just occured to me that we really haven't had a successful test of this equipment."
    Egon: "I blame myself."
    Peter: "So do I."
    Ray: "Well, no sense in worrying about it now."
    Peter: "Why worry? Each one of us is carrying an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on his back."
    • by Anonymous Coward
      4600 lbs?

      "That's a big twinkie"
    • Come on, if you're going to call a GB quote "obligatory" here, it's gotta be this one:

      Egon: There's something very important I forgot to tell you.
      Venkman: What?
      Egon: Don't cross the streams.
      Venkman: Why?
      Egon: It would be bad.
      Venkman: I'm fuzzy on the whole good-bad thing. Whattya mean "bad?"
      Egon: Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.
      Ray: Total protonic reversal....
      Venkman: Right, that's bad...OK.. important safety tip. Thanks, Egon.

  • by Crasoum (618885) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @07:02PM (#4491740) Journal
    It deffinatly would be interesting.....

    Then again I know I wouldn't want -any- of my friends that are even remotely intelligent (and even less those that are not intelligent) to be messing with particle acceleration...

    "Mom.... You did say you wanted a skylight didn't you?"

    • Fun with anti-matter? It deffinatly would be interesting.....

      I've wanted to do this for a long time. It turns out that an electron synchrotron capable of producing antiprotons could, *barely*, fit in a back yard...

      You could make positrons fairly efficiently with a slightly-enhanced version of the cyclotron described in this article, or with a few-MeV electrostatic accelerator, but where's the challenge in that? :)

      OTOH, given my budget or lack thereof, it'll probably be a while before I'm in a position to _build_ a synchrotron. Which is likely for the best, given the quantities of X and gamma rays produced by such a beast.
  • A year from now, parents will be lined up at Toys 'R Us locations only to find that Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il have pre-ordered 90% of the shipping units.
  • ..the elusive "five dollar plasma weapon!".
  • by Trusty Penfold (615679) <jon_edwards@spanners4us.com> on Sunday October 20, 2002 @07:25PM (#4491826) Journal
    These amateur experiments are very impressive but I'm always worried that the lack of safety guidance will lead imitators into trouble. For example, with this equipment there are potential safety issues if the experiment is replicated in the southern hemisphere.

    In the southern hemisphere or, more specifically, south of the topic of Capricorn, the particles will need to spin the other way.
    This can be achieved in many ways; none of which were mentioned in the original article.
    For example;
    1) Turn the equipment upside down.
    2) Use magnets of opposite polarity.
    3) Use anti-protons instead of protons,

    Just one of these needs to be done to transofrm a southern cyclotron from a deathtrap into a fun and safe piece of equipment.
    • by Tablizer (95088) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @11:51PM (#4492960) Homepage Journal
      In the southern hemisphere or, more specifically, south of the topic of Capricorn, the particles will need to spin the other way.

      Solution: purchase a toilet from Australia, and stand in it while flushing it. The water will spiral down in a reverse direction from what it does in the northern hemisphere, protecting you from hemispheric polarity issues while operating your experiments.

      Make sure all your neighbors see you stand in the Australian toilet to set a good safety example. Remember, not standing in the toilet is like riding a motorcycle without your foil helmet (which we discussed last time).

  • Cylon? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ribo99 (71160) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @07:26PM (#4491829) Homepage Journal
    For a couple of seconds I thought this story read "Science: Build Your Own Cyclon [allscifi.com]" and I got really excited...
  • To take an idea from Tom Smith- "307 Ale me lads, 307 ale....the finest drink that any bar has ever had for sale...." Bottoms up! TDD
  • Friendship (Score:5, Funny)

    by batquux (323697) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @08:38PM (#4492158)
    Now that's a real friend..someone who helps you build your own cyclotron.
  • by arnie_apesacrappin (200185) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @08:53PM (#4492213)
    Anyone else happen to have a 4600 lb. magnet lying around?

    When I was in school, one of my professors [gatech.edu] (the guy who's work is talked about in this [slashdot.org] /. article) told me this story about a large magnet. Keep in mind, I'm recalling this from memory, and I was in college when it was told to me. Therefore, it is an approximation of the actual events that took place.

    A large cylindrical magnet was being delivered to a second floor lab. By large I mean 5 feet in diameter and 3.5 feet wide. Because of university policy, the university maintence crew was to move the magnet to its final destination. After getting it onto the service elevator, they arrived on the second floor.

    From the service elevator, the magnet had to move almost the length of the building, turn a corner, and go about another twenty feet to the lab. The three men moving the magnet got it out of the elevator, and started down the hall.

    Being a large heavy object, they had to push really hard to get it moving. They kept pushing really hard all the way down the hall. Not being physicists, they assumed that the magnet would stop rolling when they stoped pushing. They were quite wrong. Not only did the magnet not stop when they stopped pushing, but it didn't stop when it hit the wall of the corner room. The exterior wall of the building didn't stop it either. It came to rest embeded deep in the ground outside the lab.

    It was much funnier when he told it.

  • Just a request... (Score:3, Informative)

    by NanoGator (522640) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:35PM (#4492387) Homepage Journal
    ... not all of us instantly know what a 'cylcotron' is, and the sites that articles link to aren't always avaialable due to /. traffic.

    So, please, when you post an article to /., please consider defining what the device is and why it's interesting. At the very least, link to a glossary term somewhere on the net that explains it. Please don't assume that a.) We all know what everything means or b.) That the people who don't know the term wouldn't be interested anyway.

    *meant as a polite request, not bittery sarcastic or anything*

    • While I agree with your sentiment, I question its application in this circumstance. I think that most of us *do* know what a cyclotron is -- not to say there's anything wrong with you if you don't, but you are in fact in the minority here. There are *plenty* of *far* more egregious examples of the problem you describe here on /. -- go pick on them first.
      • "There are *plenty* of *far* more egregious examples of the problem you describe here on /. "

        I would, but the problem is that my experience is broad enough that few poorly described things posted on Slashdot escape my scope, thus it doesn't occur to me to request clarification.

        • The ones I notice most often are acronyms. Postings under the Developers category do this a lot -- they'll say "New version of XDTBA 7.0.1 has been released, now with support for GHTA and a PH4S-compliant YRT interface!" To quote Ellen Feiss, "..............huh?"
  • by rudiger (35571) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @10:30PM (#4492605)
    stop me if you have heard this one.

    two atoms are flying around in a cyclotron and one says to the other, "i think i lost an electron", to which the other replied, "are you sure?".

    the first atom responded "yes, i'm positve."

    AHAHAHAHA GEEK HUMOUR IS FUNNY :)
  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @10:55PM (#4492727) Homepage
    Many years ago, my high school had acquired the beginnings of a cyclotron as military surplus - the magnet frame and some big spools of magnet wire. Nobody ever did anything with it, though. This was part of a large shipment of somewhat random military surplus obtained by the electronics shop instructor under some DoD educational program. Lots of interesting stuff, but very little useful - wierd CRTs from obsolete radars, waveguide, big power tubes, paper tape Morse code training devices, and similar obscure junk.
  • by Swinekilla (619155)
    I reciently toured the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory at Michigan State University. Check out the K1200 Cyclotron under the technology category. They got it coupled to the K500 cyclotron currently. It's pretty sweet to see technology that goes way beyond your head, first hand. http://www.nscl.msu.edu/
  • It was a Family Matters crossover I believe with Step By Step but I could be wrong. The nerd from the second show mentioned to Steve Urkel that he was building a Cyclotron for an 8th grade science fair. Quote may not be 100% verbatim, I'm mainly unsure on the second word. HAven't seen the episode(or the show at all) in years, but I'd say this is nearly though not quite verbatim

    "Any fool can build a cyclotron, what you've got to build is a linear accelerator!"

    And I can remember bits of sitcoms that aired almost 10 years ago, but I can't remember where I put my wallet(which is in my hand) at times...
  • by Shadok8 (58859) on Monday October 21, 2002 @12:30AM (#4493120)
    I have an old 1950's Scientific American book of experiments. It features reprints of articles from the magazine.

    They have a lengthy article on how to build a 1 MEV particle accelerator. It generates a "spray" of alpha products if I remember correctly. Since this is from the 1950's I just love how in light of recent discoveries, the author recommends leaving the room if you plan to operate it for more than a couple of hours.

    Similar warnings are given that a home made X-ray machine may have some risks.

    Articles also include:
    Build a steel rocket with launch girder assembly that reaches a 1 mile altitude. They recommend having a desert for launching.
    Build a telescope, hand grinding the mirrors.
    Build the 1MEV Van de Graff generator to power the accelerator.
    • I love these old articles from SciAm - I remember the rocket, it was also published in a book - your made your own propellant, and they published how to build a strobe light, setting up a far away camera and leaving the shutter open to see the arc (parabola) made by the rocket, and also how to measure height (via the apogee and some trig - simple stuff).

      I miss this kind of spirit of experimentation - if I have kids I hope to be able to pass on such experiments, and show my kids that while things may be dangerous, if you aproach the problem and experiment with respect, you generally won't have a problem - but even so, sometimes accidents happen - and that is the price we humans should be prepared to face in the search for knowledge and truth.

  • It's great that this guy has built a cyclotron, and a good looking one at that. But I believe others have done something similar. I've seen a TV story about someone who has constructed smaller cyclotron. If you are interested in building a particle accelerator, I would suggest a Betatron. I was able to make a 3 MeV one (large enough to generate positrons, my goal in constructing it) without much trouble in high school. I just followed the instructions for building one giving by the inventor Donald Kerst in his paper (don't remember the exact paper name) and used parts from the local hardware store. It was small, only a few pounds, and only cost around $100. The nice thing about a Betatron, is that it is extremely stable and self-corrects small deviations in magnetic field (in other words, you can do a crappy construction job and still have it work). The hardest part was finding decent vacuum equipment. Now if I just let it run 24/7 for 5,220 trillion years, I will have myself a pound of antimatter.
    • I was going to say, how is this a big deal. I too remember a friend building a particle accelerator in high school. I didn't understand that much about it, or I guess the difference between a cyclotron and a betatron. I just wanted him to build it into a backpack for me.

      One of my other friends made super conductors that operated only 2 degrees colder than the warmest ones at that time.
  • by Jonny 290 (260890) <brojames@ductape.nELIOTet minus poet> on Monday October 21, 2002 @02:52AM (#4493542) Homepage
    Anyone else happen to have a 4600 lb. magnet lying around?"

    Yup. It's currently keeping my kid's lifesize crayon rendition of the Sistine Chapel stuck to my 46 foot tall, 1400 ton refrigerator.
  • by panurge (573432) on Monday October 21, 2002 @02:58AM (#4493553)
    Years ago Scientific American (dead tree edition ) published a series of articles on how to build a backyard atom smasher of the Cockcroft and Walton variety using a Van der Graaf accelerator. As I remember, it reached about 3 MeV, three times better than this cyclotron, and was a practical home build for someone without the Rutgers back lot to call on. There was a whole lot of stuff in the article about lead lined aprons, though given the usual cliches about backyard inventors and the opposite sex, I'm surprised this was considered necessary.

    There seem to be two schools of backyard engineering thought: High voltage (lots of polished metal spheres and weird looking insulation, with blue sparks) and high current (big evil looking coils with water cooling circuits.) Perhaps the two camps could collaborate to build a really big mass spectrograph, which (given enough cheap electricity) you can use to extract your own enriched uranium. I'm sure Charlton Heston could be persuaded to argue that the right to bear arms extends to home tactical nukes.

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