In large-scale facilities
Modern industrial-scale synchrotrons can be very large (here, Soleil
One of the early large synchrotrons, now retired, is the Bevatron, constructed in 1950 at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. The name of this proton accelerator comes from its power, in the range of 6.3 GeV (then called BeV for billion electron volts; the name predates the adoption of the SI prefix giga-). A number of transuranium elements, unseen in the natural world, were first created with this machine. This site is also the location of one of the first large bubble chambers used to examine the results of the atomic collisions produced here.
Another early large synchrotron is the Cosmotron built at Brookhaven National Laboratory which reached 3.3 GeV in 1953.
Among the few synchrotrons around the world 16 are located in the United States. Many of them belong to national laboratories; few are located in universities.
As part of colliders
Until August 2008, the highest energy collider in the world was the Tevatron, at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, in the United States. It accelerated protons and antiprotons to slightly less than 1 TeV of kinetic energy and collided them together. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which has been built at the European Laboratory for High Energy Physics (CERN), has roughly seven times this energy (so proton-proton collisions occur at roughly 14 TeV). It is housed in the 27 km tunnel which formerly housed the Large Electron Positron (LEP) collider, so it will maintain the claim as the largest scientific device ever built. The LHC will also accelerate heavy ions (such as lead) up to an energy of 1.15 PeV.
The largest device of this type seriously proposed was the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC), which was to be built in the United States. This design, like others, used superconducting magnets which allow more intense magnetic fields to be created without the limitations of core saturation. While construction was begun, the project was cancelled in 1994, citing excessive budget overruns — this was due to naïve cost estimation and economic management issues rather than any basic engineering flaws. It can also be argued that the end of the Cold War resulted in a change of scientific funding priorities that contributed to its ultimate cancellation. However, the tunnel built for its placement still remains, although empty.
While there is still potential for yet more powerful proton and heavy particle cyclic accelerators, it appears that the next step up in electron beam energy must avoid losses due to synchrotron radiation. This will require a return to the linear accelerator, but with devices significantly longer than those currently in use. There is at present a major effort to design and build the International Linear Collider (ILC), which will consist of two opposing linear accelerators, one for electrons and one for positrons. These will collide at a total center of mass energy of 0.5 TeV.
As part of synchrotron light sources
Synchrotron radiation also has a wide range of applications (see synchrotron light) and many 2nd and 3rd generation synchrotrons have been built especially to harness it. The largest of those 3rd generation synchrotron light sources are the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble, France, the Advanced Photon Source (APS) near Chicago, USA, and SPring-8 in Japan, accelerating electrons up to 6, 7 and 8 GeV, respectively.
Synchrotrons which are useful for cutting edge research are large machines, costing tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to construct, and each beamline (there may be 20 to 50 at a large synchrotron) costs another two or three million dollars on average. These installations are mostly built by the science funding agencies of governments of developed countries, or by collaborations between several countries in a region, and operated as infrastructure facilities available to scientists from universities and research organisations throughout the country, region, or world. More compact models, however, have been developed, such as the Compact Light Source.