Innovation and Partnerships Office

Miniature Ion Accelerator 2016-059


  • Mass spectrometers
  • Semiconductor and other manufacturing, e.g., ion implantation and exfoliation of materials, surface modifications
  • Homeland security screening
  • Pharmaceutical, medical, and environmental science research
  • Plasma heating


  • Scalability to very high beam power
  • Suits ultra-compact to large-scale installations
  • Production of ions or electrons in ultra-compact accelerator structures
  • Scalable fabrication for low cost


Berkeley Lab researchers have, in collaboration with colleagues from Cornell University, designed a miniature ion accelerator technology that can scale to very high beam power and enables ultra-compact and low cost applications of charge particle beams for plasma assembly and heating, materials processing, neutron and x-ray radiography, mass spectrometry, and other ion/electron beam analysis techniques. Microelectro-mechanical system (MEMS) processes allow accelerator components to be made from scalable, low cost fabrication processes, which permit generation of greater ion beam power for a target or for materials processing, and enable production of ions or electrons in ultra-compact accelerator structures.

The miniature ion accelerator can operate with multiple beams, and combines an ion source with electro-static quadrupole (ESQ) focusing elements and high voltage gaps for acceleration. The Lab has demonstrated an acceleration gradient of about 1 kV/mm and has accelerated argon and helium ions. By adding lattice accelerator unit cells in wafer stacks, high beam energies can be generated in a structure with a small length. The accelerator lattice is simulated and designed using charged particle focusing and acceleration codes. The wafers forming the accelerator structure are fabricated using printed circuit (PC) board or MEMS processing technology (thin film deposition, etching, laser cutting, etc., or through additive manufacturing including 3D printing), leading to low production cost.

Current accelerator technology is based on manufacturing processes that scale unfavorably to smaller dimensions. Most other accelerators are also based on copper and steel, and manufactured one at a time. Thus, costs are high, as well as entry barriers for application of ion/electron beams. The Berkeley Lab technology will be highly competitive due to lower cost, increased performance (beam currents and beam power) and compact size compared to existing accelerator technology.

DEVELOPMENT STAGE: Proven principle through demonstration of helium and argon ion acceleration by over 2 kV in a 3×3 array of beamlets, formed in a PC-board-based radio-frequency-wafer stack with acceleration and re-focusing elements (formed from electrostatic quadrupoles).

STATUS: Patent pending. Available for licensing or collaborative research.


Precise Synchronization Device for Particle Accelerators, IB-2702

Shock Injector Enabling Clinical Use of Electron Beam Therapy – Low-Laser Energy Electron Injection into Laser Plasma Accelerators, 2015-150

Ultracompact Spectrometer and Beam Profiler for In-situ Vacuum UV and Soft X-Ray Beam Characterization, IB-2520