STRIKING FEATURES in Physics
Development of Helium spectrometer (1954)
Worldly mass production (50,000 specimens) device produced by Thomson, Alcatel, Leybold, Balzers etc…
Still produced to this day, used worldwide for very-low-density vacuum systems, and still used in labs.
Construction of the first turbo-molecular pump
Mass production under the label CEA/SNECMA (100,000 specimens) by Alcatel, Leybold, Balzers, and various American, Japanese, Chinese societies, and more.
Invention of the first ion source based on electron cyclotron resonance in 1965 (ECRIS)
Development of numerous ECRIS prototypes, some of them being used in industrial applications for surface treatment. Conception of the first ECRIS for multicharged ions (1974) and progressive improvements of its performances until today (miniaturization thanks to permanent magnets, and then thanks to superconductors, and increase of produced energies, that made possible the adaptability of these sources to very different applications). This last activity had far-reaching repercussions in various fields of fundamental research. It led to a new nuclear physics (heavy ions) and made it possible to launch new research in atomic physics.
This type of highly-ionized source, allows to increase spectacularly the energy of boosted ions without modifying the structure of the accelerators, i.e. without increasing the price of the experiments. Thus, a number of old accelerators underwent a real revival, and developed new activities. Generally speaking, thanks to this source, the big international accelerators such as GANIL, MSU, GSI, etc… were able to produce new isotopic elements. Since 1980, almost all the accelerators worldwide (cyclotrons, synchrotrons, linacs, …) got equipped with ECRIS, 30 of them were directly produced in Grenoble and then used in the European Community, the USA, Russia, the CERN, China, Japan, and more. Since 1985, international teams of hundreds of physicists work with these beams of heavy ions in order to probe the standard model and the theory of the Big Bang. This led to new research in the field of the physics of heavy particles, and to empirically approach the physics of high energies involved in the Big Bang, and the physics of the beginning of our universe. For instance, the CERN replacing its classical ion sources by an ECRIS moved from 200 GeV for protons in 1985 to about 90 Tev for Lead ion in 1994 (i.e. about a 500 multiplicative factor) without spending any money and with a totally reliable source. The CERN was thus able to tackle the Big Bang physics (gluons and quarks high lightening), a mystery that excites the minds of more than just strange particles physicists. Studies are scheduled to start in 2008 at the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) at the CERN with 600 Gev Pb27+ ions.
Field lines from an ECRIS ion source
ECRIS reliability and longevity allowed uninterrupted use of intense and highly-charged beams, making possible the discovery of super-heavy trans-uranium of the Mandeleev table (110, 111, 112, 114, 116, and 118 in 2006) and of new isotopes (Berkeley, GSI, Doubna). Also, without any accelerator, ECRIS sources allowed a revival of atomic physics in which hundreds of physicists are active on the long-term in more than 20 laboratories.
The more recent discovery of the 1+/n+ method shall permit worldwide new studies on ISOL radioactive ions (and among others, research in astrophysics). In particular at the CERN, new radioactive ion beams are replacing Penning Traps in the Rex Isolde program because they make it possible to increase the number of rare event 10000 times in comparison with classical devices.
In the late seventies, I wanted ECR sources to be part of cancers cure thanks to the very high precision that was obtained and that made possible to pinpoint cancerous tumors without destroying surrounding cells. Since 1994, ECRIS are indispensable sources for cancer therapy through heavy ions (HIMAC) for tumors known until then as incurable such as brain tumors. They were first used in Chiba (Japan), then at the GSI Darmstadt and will be in application in the coming years in Heidelberg, Padova, Lyon and other European hospitals are in development.
The ECRIS sources have often replaced the classical ions sources in various fields such as surface treatments, ionic implantation, micro-etching and are progressing into high-tech fields such as microelectronics (etching over large surfaces with scales smaller than a few tens of nm) or nanotechnologies. This was made possible thanks to the increase of performances, reliability and miniaturization of the sources, which then made possible the adaptation of the sources to various technological applications.
Finally ECR sources are taken in consideration for various applications, for example by the NASA for ionic space propulsion, ordinary-temperature metallurgy, or for low-cost water purifying in developing countries.