SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Zoe White
March 12, 2016

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2016


Fig. 1: SLAC Entrance Sign (Source: Wikimedia Commons.)

Located in Menlo Park, California, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory is home to the world's largest linear particle accelerator. [1] Linear particle accelerators are devices that work to increase the kinetic energy of charged particles through acceleration by time-varying electromagnetic fields. [2] These accelerators consist of copper tubes in which the particles travel near the speed of light, allowing scientists to study the subatomic structure of matter. [3,4] There are many research applications of linear particle accelerators, spanning the fields of applied physics, chemistry, medicine, astronomy, material science, alternative energy, and more. [4,5]

Origins of SLAC

Construction of what is now known as the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory began in the 1960s, and cost approximately $114 million. [5] SLAC began operation in 1962 on 426 acres of Stanford-owned land in Menlo Park, California. [1] Scientists began working on building a linear accelerator known as "Project M," or "The Monster," which would be used to study subatomic particles. In 1966 SLAC unveiled the largest linear particle accelerator, which measures 2.2 kilometers in length, 3 meters wide, and 3.9 meters high. [3,5] This massive structure runs parallel to Silicon Valley's famous Sand Hill Road, home of some of the nation's most successful venture capital firms. [3] Along with building the world's largest linear particle accelerator, SLAC also received acclaim for discovering some of the key building blocks of matter and for launching the first web server in North America on December 13, 1991. [6] Over the past five decades, six scientists have been awarded Nobel prizes for their work at SLAC. These include Burton Richter's 1976 Nobel Prize in Physics, Richard Taylor, Henry Kendall & Jerome Friedman's 1990 Nobel Prize in Physics, Martin Perl's 1995 Nobel Prize in Physics, and Roger D. Kornberg's 2006 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. [1]

Recent History and Future of SLAC

In October of 2008, SLAC announced a name change to SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. This name change was partly the result of a trademark dispute between Stanford University and the United States Department of Energy over the use of the word "Stanford." The U.S. Department of Energy also noted that the name change was an attempt to reflect the changes that have occurred in the direction of research at the laboratory since its opening in 1962. [7] In 2012, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory celebrated its 50th anniversary and also appointed its fifth director, Chi-Chang Kao. The laboratory now operates under the administration of the Department of Energy's Office of Basic Energy Sciences. Current and future research initiatives at the lab include the fields of solar technology, material sciences, and astrophysics. [7]

© Zoe White. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] C. Hopkins, "Stanford Linear Particle Accelerator ," Physics 241, Stanford University, Winter 2015.

[2] E. J. N. Wilson, An Introduction to Particle Accelerators (Oxford U. Press, 2001).

[3] A. T. Saracevic, "Silicon Valley: It's Where Brains Meet Bucks," San Francisco Chronicle, 23 Oct 05.

[4] C. Dsouza, "Particle Accelerators," Physics 241, Stanford University, Winter 2012.

[5] W. H. Scharf, Particle Accelerators and Their Uses (CRC Press, 1986).

[6] T. Hey, A. Hey and G. Pápay, The Computing Universe: A Journey Through a Revolution (Cambridge U. Press, 2014).

[7] D. Perlman, "Stanford Physics Lab Embroiled in Naming Spat," San Francisco Chronicle, 28 Jul 08.