Accelerator Science

PARTICLE ACCELERATORSLaser Plasma Accelerators

Plasma is an electrically conducting medium with positively and negatively charged particles, created by applying high energy to a gas. Particles become charged and a strong electric field is created when plasma is exposed to a laser. Plasma accelerators are built using this principle.

Plasma is the most effective known transformer of an electromagnetic wave, plasma can sustain a very large electric field with values that are up to 10,000 times stronger than those seen in the RF cavities of the particle accelerator.

By directing a laser through a plasma medium, a wave is created which forces the electrons to create a strong electric field. Particles are injected/trapped between the waves so they can be accelerated to the speed of light.

The laser wakefield are the waves within the plasma created by the laser. Laser wakefield technique is best compared to wakeboarders enjoying a ride on the wake of a boat. Imagine wakeboarders on a lake eager to experience the waves created by a boat’s wake. Behind the boat, wakeboarders gain energy from the wave, and they will be able to travel at high speeds.

In the laser wakefield technique, the lake is the plasma and the boat is the laser driven beam. By oscillating between the transverse field of an electromagnetic wave and the longitudinal field of a plasma wave the electrons are accelerated creating a high quality beam.

Higher energy gained through particle acceleration has many industrial and research applications. It can even allow us to understand the origin of the universe and to view the smallest building blocks of nature.