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Nudging ions into strings and spirals.

High-energy physicists have long sought ways of packing more ions into accelerator beams and narrowing the range of velocities at which these ions travel. Now Herbert Walther and his colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany, have demonstrated that nearly stationary ions trapped in a storage ring and bathed in low-energy radio waves can be made to organize themselves into distinctive patterns. This suggests that it may be possible to generate carefully ordered, precisely defined ion beams in accelerators.

Walther and his colleagues found that as they increase the number of positively charge magnesium ions in their doughnut-shaped electrical trap, the ions first form a line, then buckle into a zigzag pattern, and eventually arrange themselves into a set of interwoven spirals along the trap's circular central axis. Finally, with thousands of ions in the trap, they settle into an array of concentric shells. These observations fit with theoretical predictions of the patterns that should arise under such circumstances. The researchers report their results in the May 28 NATURE.
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Title Annotation:trapped ions can be made to organize into patterns for packing into accelerator beams
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jul 11, 1992
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