Friday 09 Mar 2018Laser Wakefield Accelerators: a particle accelerator in a university lab?

Stuart Mangles - Imperial College

Newman Red 12:30-13:30

Particle accelerators are one of our most important tools for scientific discovery. They are used in the ongoing search for new fundamental physics and lie at the heart of the worlds brightest X-ray sources which are used to probe the structure of matter, materials and proteins. Modern accelerators, which are very large machines that can only be built by the most developed nations, are certainly impressive, but why do they need to be so big? Laser wakefield acceleration is an exciting technology that is being investigated as an alternative to conventional particle accelerators, it uses the very large electric fields that are produced in the wake of an intense laser as it travels through a plasma to accelerate particles in a very shot distance. Experiments can now produce multi-GeV electron beams from an accelerator just a few centimetres long — something that can only be achieved with a conventional accelerator that is about 100 m long. The electron beams and the X-rays laser wakefield accelerators can already produce are now being used for a range of applications, including medical imaging, probing extreme states of matter and even investigating fundamental physics.

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