What Do Shrink-Wrapped Thanksgiving Turkeys and the Higgs Boson Have in Common?

Frozen turkeys and thermal grocery bags filled with food products sit prepared for circulation at the Dover Flying Force Base, Del.

Credit: Roland Balik/U. S. Flying Force

( Inside Science)– Each Thanksgiving, countless Americans carry turkeys house from the shop. If you discover yourself plopping a fresh, shrink-wrapped bird into your cart, you can thank particle physicists for the tough, rack life-extending product packaging.

That’s since the food market makes diminish wrap utilizing a tool very first established in physics laboratories: an electron accelerator.

To comprehend how the procedure works, envision the atoms in the plastic as people at a big Thanksgiving supper. At first these individuals just socialize with others they currently understand, or the member of the family they understand they like. (In diminish wrap, the “in-groups” are long strings of bonded atoms called polymer chains.) This preliminary setup is weak, given that the groups quickly wander apart.

Now envision a sped up electron as a professional Thanksgiving host. It can zip through the event and disintegrate discussions, motivating individuals to shake hands with others in various groups. The trade name for this procedure in plastics is cross-linking. It makes the plastic harder and more heat-resistant.

Cross-linking is vital for making diminish wrap since it enables makers to warm the plastic and stretch it into a thin movie without it breaking or merging a mess. When the movie is cooled it maintains the stretched-out shape. However make the movie into a bag, drop a turkey (or other product) inside and reheat it, and the plastic will diminish, producing a tight seal with whatever is within.

The plastic market provides a hearty assisting of diminish cover each year. And it’s simply a small part of the general market for commercial particle accelerators, which are likewise utilized to cross-link the protective plastic around electrical circuitry, decontaminate medical devices and improve the color of gems.

Industrial devices are more affordable and less effective than well-known particle accelerators such as the huge Big Hadron Collider in Europe, which physicists utilized in 2012 to verify the presence of a particle called the Higgs boson However market accelerators represent a concrete method particle physics touches daily life, and their applications are still broadening.

” Electron beams have the possible to deal with wastewater, pave much better roadways and contribute to the prospering and wealth of the modern-day economy,” stated Charles Thangaraj, an accelerator physicist at Fermilab’s Illinois Accelerator Proving ground situated beyond Chicago, which assists to move accelerator innovations established at the laboratory to market applications.

So, this Thanksgiving, as you pop your turkey out of its form-fitting plastic sheath, think about taking a minute to appreciate for the physics that makes it possible.

Inside Science News Service is supported by the American Institute of Physics.