Video series brings particle accelerators to life

The Royal Institution teams up with the Science and Technology Facilities Council and Dr Suzie Sheehy to explore the wide world of particle accelerators in a film series: 'Accelerators for humanity'.

  • Particle accelerator-themed illustration by Daniel Clarke

    The hidden beauty and significance of particle accelerators.

    Credit: Daniel Clarke
  • Suzie Sheehy presenting at the Ri

    Suzie Sheehy presenting a Discourse on particle accelerators at the Ri

    Credit: Katherine Leedale


Throughout summer the Royal Institution have released a series of short films and lectures showcasing the wide-ranging applications of particle accelerators and highlighting their crucial role in our society. The project, including two live events, an animation and four short films, is supported by a grant from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Public Engagement Large Awards Scheme.

In recent years, the discovery of the Higgs boson and the prominence of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN have caught the public’s imagination in a way that few scientific discoveries ever have. And yet particle accelerator research is so much more. Most people would guess that there is one, or perhaps a few accelerators in the world, when in fact there are tens of thousands scattered around the globe, helping to deliver new knowledge about everything from cancer treatment to insights into the taste of wine.

The series of events and films addresses these wider applications of accelerators and shines a light on how they are transforming the way we live through medicine, food safety and nuclear power.

The project has been produced in partnership with Dr Suzie Sheehy. Suzie is an accelerator physicist with a knack for communication. She currently holds a joint appointment with STFC and ASTeC to work at Oxford University on high power hadron accelerators.

She said, “It’s been an amazing experience working with the Ri team to share the story and science of particle accelerators. Working with such a great team of science communication professionals has meant that together we can produce resources that neither of us could produce alone. I was able to really focus on the science I wanted to communicate, while I knew that the quality of the events and videos and the creativity the team brought to the project would make the finished product truly excellent. Through this project a number of colleagues had their first experience on camera and thousands of people have learned more about our field. 

“The set of resources we’ve created are already being used for communication and teaching purposes, in fact one professor from China introduced himself at a recent conference and said he recognised me as he was using the videos as part of his university course! On a personal level, the two-way engagement with the audience in live events and through the YouTube channel has brought up some really great questions that have helped me think about certain aspects of my research and how I explain it to various audiences.”

Elizabeth Cunningham, STFC Particle and Nuclear Physics Outreach Officer, said “The Royal Institution have done an exceptional job producing these entertaining films highlighting the impact of particle accelerators on our everyday lives. I am thrilled to see what they have achieved with the support of an STFC Public Engagement Large Award and pleased that the funding has enabled them to tell such important stories about our science and technology”.

Cassie Williams, the Ri's Digital Manager, said "Whilst many people have heard of the CERN, we discovered that most were unaware of the wider uses of particle accelerators for medical applications and beyond, and the amazing research being done in this area.

"We were delighted to get funding from the STFC which has allowed us to work with Suzie Sheehy, an Accelerator Physicist at the University of Oxford, to develop a series of live events and videos to help raise public awareness of particle accelerators and the many benefits they bring to society."

The videos have all been released under a creative commons license so can be freely shared worldwide. Watch the full series on the Royal Institution's YouTube channel.

Become a member

Benefit from free and better than half-price tickets, special offers and access to the CHRISTMAS LECTURES ticket ballot.

Join todayGo