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A particle accelerator is a device that uses electromagnetic field to propel charged particle to high speeds and to contain them in well-defined beams. An ordinary CRT television set is a simple form of accelerator. There are two basic types: electrostatic and oscillating field.
In the early 20th century, cyclotron were commonly referred to as atom smashers. Despite the fact that modern colliders actually propel subatomic particles—atoms themselves now being relatively simple to disassemble without an accelerator—the term persists in popular usage when referring to particle accelerators in general.
Beams of high-energy particles are useful for both fundamental and applied research in the sciences, and also in many technical and industrial fields unrelated to fundamental research. It has been estimated that there are approximately 26,000 accelerators worldwide. Of these, only about 1% are the research machines with energies above 1 GeV (that are the main focus of this article), about 44% are for radiotherapy, about 41% for ion implantation, about 9% for industrial processing and research, and about 4% for biomedical and other low-energy research.
For the most basic inquiries into the dynamics and structure of matter, space, and time, physicists seek the simplest kinds of interactions at the highest possible energies.
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