Tony Bell
Credit: Royal Society

Professor Tony Bell awarded Yodh Prize

Plasma physics
Atomic and Laser Physics

Emeritus Professor Tony Bell has been awarded this year’s Yodh Prize for his theoretical contributions that led to a breakthrough in understanding the acceleration of cosmic rays by amplified magnetic fields.

The Yodh Prize is awarded every two years by the University of California, Irvine to recognise scientists whose research career has had a major impact on the understanding of cosmic rays. The recipient is selected by an international committee of distinguished scientists in the field of cosmic rays and astroparticle physics.

Major contributions

Professor Bell is a plasma physicist, applying his knowledge to understand how cosmic rays get accelerated. He has made two major contributions to the field of cosmic rays over his career: he was one of four groups in the late 1970s that independently showed that shocks can accelerate cosmic rays, particularly shocks generated by supernova explosions, which is now the standard model for cosmic ray acceleration; then, in the 2000s, he was able to show that streaming cosmic rays generate large turbulent magnetic fields which is essential for cosmic rays to get accelerated to high energy – the magnetic fields are observed in supernova remnants.  

Most recently Professor Bell has been working to make the case that the highest energy cosmic rays, nuclei with the energy of a Wimbledon tennis ball, are accelerated by radio galaxies.

‘It is a great honour to receive this prize and to be recognised by my peers in this way,’ comments Professor Bell. ‘My research is endlessly fascinating and it is enormously gratifying to have contributed to the cosmic rays corpus.’