Albuquerque, NM —Developed by the Department of Energy's Sandia National Laboratories, the Z accelerator is designed "to deliver large amounts of current in a short time span," says Marcus Knudson, a staff scientist for the project. Scientists are now using it to measure impacts, particularly the impact of space particles on satellites and orbiting space observatories.
The current generated by the machine creates a magnetic field that, in turn, creates intense pressure. It propels "dime-sized" flyer plates a few hundred millimeters at a speed of 20 km/sec. Combined with the measurements of material thickness and shockwave speed, scientists may liken the impact results to outer space collisions.