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Education and Outreach Programs

Extreme X-Rays and Particle Accelerators

Producing some of the brightest x-rays on the planet

At Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source (APS), scientists control electron beams moving at 99.999% the speed of light to produce some of the brightest x-rays on the planet.

These x-rays are used to study different materials for basic science and numerous applications, including pharmaceuticals, nanotechnology, and energy technologies.


Students will learn how this incredible device works and practice some of the skills that scientists draw upon to make and utilize these extreme x-rays.

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      For Students
      • Thinking Strategically: Experience how engineers optimize designs based on experimental results
      • Thinking Flexibly: Learn to change perspective and arrive at unexpected conclusions based on inference, evidence-based thinking, and scientific argumentation.
      For Teachers
      • Promoting Scientific Discourse: Our instructors will guide your students through evidence-based debates. This promotes a collaborative environment in which students make decisions in a strategic way.
      • How to Get Involved: As students test different designs for their magnetic accelerator, teachers can help guide them through the process of observing trends in their data and understanding the outcomes.

      What the Students Will Be Doing

      Student teams design a magnetic linear accelerator using a Gauss gun. They investigate concepts in magnetism and energy transfer, collect data, and optimize their design based on previous results. By observing relationships and patterns in their data, students make thoughtful modifications in a friendly competition to see which team can achieve the greatest acceleration.

      Getting the Most Out of Your Visit

      • Prepare for the experience by reading the detailed description of your Learning Lab.
      • Make sure you arrive with plenty of time for the full experience.
      • Set learning goals with the students for the visit.
      • Share a scientist’s career profile with the students.
      • Get involved by becoming an active part of the Learning Lab experience.
      • Look for opportunities to apply some of the methods you see at the Learning Lab to your classroom.