Atom-splitting field trip planned

Published on Thu, Apr 4, 2002
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Atom-splitting field trip planned

by Meg Olson

The Whatcom County school retirees association is inviting the public along on their next field trip – a glimpse into the world of atom splitting at the University of British Columbia’s cyclotron facility.

“I’m so excited,” said field trip organizer Emma Conlee. “I’ve wanted to go there for years.”

The Vancouver facility is part of TRIUMF, Canada’s National Laboratory for Particle and Nuclear Physics.

The cyclotron, the world’s largest, accelerates negatively charged hydrogen particles up to 75 percent of the speed of light. An intense beam of protons peels off and is directed out of the cyclotron, in order that researchers can generate short-lived sub-atomic particles which allow them to study the smallest known building blocks of matter.

Beyond particle physics, the beam can also be used to create radio-isotopes to be used in medicine, chemistry and other fields of research.
There are research projects now under way at TRIUMF to use gamma rays to detect plastic explosives in cargo or luggage, to speed up computers and treat eye cancer with proton beams. Working with an international group of researchers, TRIUMF scientists have worked on muon-catalyzed fusion of hydrogen, perhaps one of the steps toward using atomic fusion as a clean, inexpensive source of energy.

The field trip to TRIUMF will leave Bellingham on April 26. A chartered bus will take participants to TRIUMF for a short lecture followed by a one-hour tour of the facility. Following the TRIUMF visit the group will go to Granville Island to explore shops, studios and art galleries. “This is also a trip to help you visit Vancouver as your own guide,” Conlee said.

Cost for the trip is $25 per person and reservations are necessary. To reserve a spot or for more information, call Conlee at 733-6384.

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