Wed 29 Mar 2017

Particle beam

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A particle beam (sometimes plasma beam, or charged particle beam) is an accelerated stream of charged particles such as electrons and protons, often accelerated towards the speed of light. In the laboratory, such beams are created by particle accelerators such as cathode ray tubes, cyclotrons, and the dense plasma focus. In nature, particle beams are created by electric fields (which accelerate charged particles in opposite directions), such as those in double layers and Birkeland currents.

In the lab, beams are often directed by electromagnetic fields and focused by electrostatic lenses. In nature, the beam is maintained by self-generating magnetic fields, that produce a plasma pinch. One of the characteristics of particle beams, is synchrotron radiation resulting from the loss of energy from electrons moving through magnetic fields.

Laboratory produced particle beams typically require high energies, and are often associated with esoteric weapons research (eg. plasma focus = plasma gun)

Interplanetary particle beams

Interplanetary particle beams have also been reported, the most frequently observed beams are consist of electrons, most of these beams originate from sun flares. [1]

Particle beams in the laboratory and in space

Particle beams in the laboratory (left) and the cosmos (right)

Relativistic electron beam damage patterns produced on polystyrene witness foils in the laboratory.[2]

Supernova 1987A in which synchrotron radiation has been associated with relativistic electrons.[3]

Particle beams in a dense plasma focus, forming pairs of vortex filaments.

The Glowing Eye Nebula (NGC 6751) showing radial filamentary structure.


  1. Dulk, G. A., "Interplanetary particle beams", FULL TEXT Committee of European Radio Astronomers, SNSF, URSI, et al., Workshop on Particle Beams in the Solar Atmosphere, Braunwald, Switzerland, Aug. 21-25, 1989) Solar Physics (ISSN 0038-0938), vol. 130, Dec. 1990, p. 139-150.
  2. Winston H. Bostick, "What Laboratory-Produced Plasma Structures Can Contribute to the Understanding of Cosmic Structures Both Large and Small", IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science Vol. PS-14 No.6 (Dec 1986) (Abstract) PEER REVIEWED
  3. Manchanda, R. K.; Sood, R. K.; Waldron, L., "A model for radio emission from SN 1987A", Astronomy and Astrophysics (ISSN 0004-6361), vol. 211, no. 2, March 1989, p. 353-355. Paper FULL TEXT PEER REVIEWED