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Historically the design of the first EBIT prototype is connected to the name of Morton Levine and Ross Marrs. Their goal was to develop an instrument based on the principles of an earlier device called an "EBIS" (electron beam ion source) but with some fundamental improvements, allowing higher charge sates to be formed, and allowing in situ spectroscopic access to the ions. In contrast to the case for EBIS, X-ray spectroscopy was to be the primary method of studying ions produced by EBIT.

EBIT was not designed to be an ion source like its ancestor the EBIS. Since the launch of the first EBIT, however, its operation for production of very high charge states was so successful that there are now applications which are based on the extraction of ions from the machine.

After the construction of the first EBIT at Livermore, a second advance was made -- development of a high energy version of the machine. With this instrument -- usually referred to as Super EBIT -- even the highest charge states of all the elements in the periodic table are accessible. Recently the Super EBIT demonstrated production of fully stripped uranium, which has the highest atomic number among the naturally occurring elements.

The energy of the Super EBIT electron beam can be varied up to just beyond 200 keV. For most applications, however, one does not need such high electron beam energies. In fact, 40 keV is enough to theoretically strip any element to the helium-like state, and even to fully strip elements up to an atomic number of 50. Limitations on maximum obtainable current densities however make significantly higher electron beam energies desirable.

Soon after the demonstration of EBITs effectiveness, decisions were made at NIST, the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), and Oxford University (United Kingdom) to build similar machines. The primary motivation was the possibility of doing high precision spectroscopy of highly charged ions. Due to their close proximity and long-standing previous collaboration on other spectroscopic work, NRL and NIST decided to team up to build a single EBIT for joint use in the metropolitan Washington DC area. Vacuum and internal components for both the new U.S. and U.K. machines were made in the Oxford machine shops as part of a collaboration between the institutions in the two countries. (More detail on the history of NRL's involvement.)

The assembly of the new EBITs progressed in parallel, reaching the final phase in August of 1993 when the NIST EBIT became operational. There are already new designs and projects underway, proving the wide acceptance of the possibilities offered by the EBIT to the scientific community.

A brief listing of some milestones in the development of the NIST EBIT facility.