Happy New Year!!
Even with most students out of town for winter break, work is feverishly going on as we await the arrival of the Pelletron (the business end of the dust accelerator) which will be arriving in early January. We have spent the last week finalizing the vacuum system by installing cryogenic pumps and other critical components (live progress can be seen here: http://dustcam.colorado.edu).
Meanwhile, I thought I would share some of the interesting pictures taken while operating the small accelerator (which is 1/150 the accelerating voltage of the big one). The first picture is our Star Trekesque warp drive which is used to accelerate our particles in and out of existence using principles of multi-dimensionality...
Okay, it is really just a look down one of our detectors which measures the velocity and charge of dust particles coming down the beamline... equally as cool as a warp drive! It uses sensitive electronics that can measure the image charge induced on the inner tube as the dust goes whizzing by at 100km/s.
These pictures show what happens when 20kV discharges in air. The images are from the back of the dust source where the dust is initially charged up and shoots through a pin-hole on the other side. The lightning is not supposed to happen, by the way.
When in operation on the big accelerator, these discharges won't occur since it will be surrounded by gas that prevents arcing. In the meantime we are working on ways of insulating the connectors.