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The harp-shaped piece of a "drift chamber" is strung with about 5,000 wires, some thinner than a human hair, each sensitive enough to catch a single electron broken from an atom.
To find out how they move, researchers intend to use Jefferson Lab's electron beam to break off atomic particles, which will be caught by the gold-covered copper and beryllium wires of the drift chamber. The curving paths of the particles, whose movements last only nanoseconds, can be analyzed and measured.
The drift chamber is part of a $310 million upgrade of the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, also known as Jefferson Lab.
Garfield tries to simulate the behaviour of drift-chambers: it calculates and plots the electrostatic field, the driftlines of electrons and ions and the currents on the sense wires resulting from the passage of a charged particle through the chamber. The program can also assist you in finding optimal potential settings under certain constraints. For calibration purposes, Garfield can compute x(t)-relations and arrival time distributions.
The program is primarily meant for use with chambers that consist only of thin wires and infinite equipotential
planes. Periodicity, magnetic fields and cylindrical geometry are allowed. Fancy electrodes can only be handled by approximation. Garfield can not deal with three-dimensional structures.
Garfield can be run interactively and in batch on most of the CERN central computers. One of the main features of the program is probably its friendliness; little knowledge about the computer system and no knowledge at all about programming languages is required to be able to run it.