I am doing a science project on Fusion and I need to know if a particle accelerator is the same thing as fusion.

  • $\begingroup$ This may be the first goal of you research on the project. To find out if there is or not a difference. $\endgroup$ – nasu Mar 7 '17 at 14:06

Absolutely not.

In a particle accelerator charged particles like electrons, protons or even ions and atom nuclei are being accelerated with electromagnetic fields, as a charge $q$ is receiving a force in an electric or magnetic field $F=q(\vec{E}+\vec{v}\times \vec{B}$) that depends on the electric field $\vec{E}$, the velocity of the charged particle $\vec{v}$ and the magnetic field $\vec{B}$. The later part $q\vec{v}\times \vec{B}$ is known as the Lorentz Force. So basically electric and magnetic fields are used to accelerate these particles by changing their momentum due to the forces acting on them (remember $Ft=\Delta p$). A very famous particle accelerator is the CERN. Also the old cathode ray tubes in televisions are particle accelerators as well. They emit electrons and accelerate them with electromagnetic fields.

In nuclear fusion however atoms collide and fusion together to a new element. An example for this is the collision between the hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium (technically their nuclei):

enter image description here For a fusion like this to occur incredibly high pressures and temperatures need to be present. This is why nuclear fusion in nature occurs in the cores of stars. And this is where elements are synthesized (not all though, there is a limit, but that would go too far). I recommend this video for further interest: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtIeozyQ3Is.

So these are completely different things, one is a technology (though strictly speaking there are 'particle accelerators' in nature), while the other is a phenomenon of nuclear physics (that is beeing tried to use as a way of getting energy).

If you now wonder, whether particle accelerators could be used to accelerate nuclei to induce fusion, well there are already discussions about that. On this site I will link the following question: Could we use particle colliders as fusion generators?

I hope I could help you a bit.


To be straight to the point, No. Generally, particle accelerators are used to produce,research new particles and to learn more about the beginning of the universe (Like the LHC). Fusion, aims to fuse particles to produce energy. It is completely different.

  • Yes, accelerating particles could be used to fuse ions. Fusors and polywells for example (Here, kinetic energy is used to overcome the Coulomb barrier)

  • If you consider these to be particle accelerators, then yes, particle accelerators can be used for fusion. But often they are used for something apart from fusion.

  • But people tend to think about high energy particle accelerators when they talk about particle accelerators. In which case, No.


protected by rob Mar 7 '17 at 14:12

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