Fastest waves ever photographed

October 27, 2006
Fastest waves ever photographed
Images of a wakefield produced by a 30 TW laser pulse in plasma of density 2.7 x 10^18 cm^-3. The color image is a 3-D reconstruction of the oscillations, and the grey-scale is a 2D projection of the same data. These waves show curved wavefronts, an important feature for generating and accelerating electrons that has been predicted, but never before seen. Credit: Michael Downer, University of Texas at Austin, and Nicholas Matlis, University of Texas at Austin

Plasma physicists at the Universities of Texas and Michigan have photographed speedy plasma waves, known as Langmuir waves, for the first time using a specially designed holographic-strobe camera.

The waves are the fastest matter waves ever photographed, clocking in at about 99.997% of the speed of light. The waves are generated in the wake of an ultra-intense laser pulse, and give rise to enormous electric fields, reaching voltages higher than 100 billion electron volts/meter (GeV/m).

The waves' electric fields can be used to accelerate electrons so strongly that they may lead to ultra-compact, tabletop versions of a high-energy particle accelerators that could be a thousand times smaller that devices which currently exists only in large-scale facilities, which are typically miles long.

Until now, a critical element necessary for understanding interaction between electrons and accelerating wakes has been missing: the ability to see the waves. The new photographic technique uses two additional laser pulses moving with the waves to image the wakefield ripples, enabling researchers to see them for the first time and revealing theoretically predicted but never-before-seen features. The ability to photograph these elusive, speedy waves promises to be an important step towards making compact accelerators a reality.

The record-setting images will be presented next week at the 48th Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society's Division of Plasma Physics, which runs October 30-November 3, 2006, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Source: American Physical Society

Explore further: NASA plans twin sounding rocket launches over Norway this winter

Related Stories

Recreating a heavenly chorus of plasma waves on Earth

November 10, 2015

Recent experiments at the Large Plasma Device (LAPD) at the University of California, Los Angeles, have successfully excited elusive plasma waves, known as whistler-mode chorus waves, which have hitherto only been observed ...

New discovery could enable portable particle accelerators

November 5, 2015

Conventional particle accelerators are typically big machines that occupy a lot of space. Even at more modest energies, such as that used for cancer therapy and medical imaging, accelerators need large rooms to accommodate ...

Recommended for you

'Material universe' yields surprising new particle

November 25, 2015

An international team of researchers has predicted the existence of a new type of particle called the type-II Weyl fermion in metallic materials. When subjected to a magnetic field, the materials containing the particle act ...

CERN collides heavy nuclei at new record high energy

November 25, 2015

The world's most powerful accelerator, the 27 km long Large Hadron Collider (LHC) operating at CERN in Geneva established collisions between lead nuclei, this morning, at the highest energies ever. The LHC has been colliding ...

Exploring the physics of a chocolate fountain

November 24, 2015

A mathematics student has worked out the secrets of how chocolate behaves in a chocolate fountain, answering the age-old question of why the falling 'curtain' of chocolate surprisingly pulls inwards rather than going straight ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.