The Accelerator

In 1962, in the rolling hills west of Stanford University, construction began on what was then the longest and straightest structure in the world, the Stanford Linear Accelerator, or linac. It took four years to build and was affectionately known as "the Monster" to the scientists who conjured it. Building the 2-mile-long structure was an engineering challenge that required taking the Earth’s curvature into account (a 20-inch shift in the vertical axis). Electrons fired from one end of the gallery reached 99.999% of the speed of light in the first meter of their flight down the accelerator and collided with a target or particle beam at the other end.

Of the four Nobel prizes awarded to SLAC scientists, three were for discovering novel elementary particles using the linac. Today the SLAC linac provides a unique source of X-ray laser pulses for investigating matter at the smallest and fastest scales at the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) as well as serving as a testbed for R&D into future accelerator technologies.


Did you know? SLAC Market, SLAC's pop-up gift shop, sells a mini model of the accelerator that’s suitable for kids and adults alike. You can buy one once public tours resume.

Photo Gallery

Construction of the linac beam housing included the building of a penetration shaft for materials handing access. When complete, the beam housing was covered by 25 feet of earth, which separated it from the Klystron Gallery above.

SLAC Videos

Public Lecture

Fabrication of the Accelerator Structure

Tour Facilities