Tandem Van de Graaff Accelerator

WMU's tandem Van de Graaff accelerator

WMU's 6.0 million volt tandem Van de Graaff accelerator

High Voltage Engineering Corporation 6-MV model EN tandem Van de Graaff accelerator at Western Michigan University has been in continuous use for more than 30 years and has been continually upgraded to remain state of the art. Our accelerator facility is an important component in graduate and undergraduate education and in faculty research that receives external grant support.

Current photos of accelerator facility

photos from 1969 installation

A priority on education

The WMU accelerator facility devotes significant beam time to education, offering hands-on experiences for our undergraduate and graduate students.

Students in the third semester of the sophomore-level calculus-based physics sequence use the accelerator in three-hour atomic and nuclear collision (e.g., Rutherford scattering) experiments. Upper-level undergraduate physics majors and graduate students use the facility in advanced laboratory courses.

Both graduate and undergraduate students work in the accelerator laboratory

We continually make the accelerator laboratory available to users outside the Department of Physics. It has been the site for many undergraduate WMU Lee Honors College thesis research projects, independent study projects, and high school science mentorship projects overseen by the Kalamazoo Area Mathematics and Science Center.

Additionally, students from many high schools and colleges come to the university on a regular basis to use the accelerator to conduct collision experiments as part of the physics curricula at their home institutions.

Enabling basic research

Department of Physics faculty use the accelerator for basic research in atomic, condensed matter, nuclear, nuclear astrophysics, and applied physics. Their work has resulted in numerous publications in leading journals.

The accelerator has also been used to conduct the research reported in numerous dissertations and thesis projects of our doctoral and master’s students.

Available for practical applications

Accelerators can be used in a wide array of practical applications. Low-energy ions in a variety of charge states and species, as well as secondary gamma rays, can probe materials, alter crystal structure, or test detectors and electronics. Several such applications have been developed in our lab, and our team is receptive to developing others to meet specific needs.