Researchers use trident laser to accelerate protons to record energies

Nov 02, 2009
(1) Micro-scale Cu Flat-Top Cone target, with the incident laser (represented in red) coming from the left, (2) Cu K-alpha X-ray image showing the deep penetration of the laser light inside the cone neck.

An international team of physicists at Los Alamos National Laboratory has succeeded in using intense laser light to accelerate protons to energies never before achieved. Using this technique, scientists can now accelerate particles to extremely high velocities that would otherwise only be possible using large accelerator facilities. Physicists around the world are examining laser particle acceleration and laser produced radiation for potential future uses in cancer treatment.

Experiments by Sandrine Gaillard, performed as part of her doctoral thesis which is supervised by Prof. Cowan, director of the Institute of Radiation Physics at the Forschungszentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (FZD), achieved world-record energies for laser accelerated particles. These record results were obtained in partnership with scientists at FZD, Sandia National Laboratories, the University of Nevada, Reno, and the University of Missouri, Columbia, all working at the Trident Laser Facility at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Protons were accelerated to velocities of 254 million miles per hour (or 37% of the speed of light).

The new record was achieved using specially shaped targets at Trident, the world's highest contrast high-intensity, high-energy laser. The scientists shot high-contrast ultrashort laser pulses lasting approximately 600 femtoseconds (600 quadrillionths of a second) and around 80 Joules directly into the cone-shaped structures, whose flat-top tips are covered with a thin film. The surfaces were created using nanotechnology, and produced by the company Nanolabz.

This is an image of the infrared laser (not seen, entering from left-hand side) interacting with a flat target (center), and the associated plasma production from the interaction on the various diagnostic instruments in the chamber. This is a time integrated image over five seconds. Credit: Joe Cowan and Kirk Flippo, LANL

When the intense laser light collides with the inside of these anvil-like microstructures, electrons are liberated from the material. In contrast to flat-foils, the microstructures act as an electron guide to the tip. The electric field generated can then be used to accelerate the protons to energies that were previously unachievable. X-ray imaging was used as a diagnostic tool to help illustrate and clarify the laser-cone interaction. The precise interactions, however, must still be resolved by the scientists via computer simulations. Next, they will study the cones ability to efficiently convert laser light into high energy protons.

The record measurements will be presented at the annual APS Division of Plasma Physics meeting in November 2009 in Atlanta, GA.

Source: American Physical Society

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User comments : 10

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CptWozza
not rated yet Nov 02, 2009
"An international team of physicists... has succeeded in accelerating protons to energies never before achieved with laser-particle acceleration"

Well it would be pretty dumb to accelerate the protons to an energy smaller than before, wouldn't it?!!!? Nevertheless, great stuff.

(c.f. all those Intel adverts, "fastest processor ever built". I wouldn't buy it if it was a crappier processor, would I?)
nuge
not rated yet Nov 02, 2009
From what I understand, the laser wakefield approach can achieve in centimeters what conventional accelerators do in a hundred meters. I think in a few years, the folks at the LHC might have some smaller, cheaper, more easily fixable competition on their hands.
Nik_2213
not rated yet Nov 02, 2009
That's an elegant approach: Like a shaped-charge explosive, no ?
IWentToHighSchool
not rated yet Nov 02, 2009
"1 electron volt is the kinetic energy which is obtained by a particle when it is accelerated by a voltage of 1 volt."

Really any particle? So an ELECTRON and a proton acquire the same kinetic energy (1eV) after acceleration through a 1 Volt potential?

"1 femtosecond = 1 billionth of a second"

Ah, thanks for clarifying that! I was off by 6 orders of magnitude for so many years!
otto1923
not rated yet Nov 02, 2009
LHC might have some smaller, cheaper, more easily fixable competition on their hands.
In which case theyll have nothing better to do than to start manufacturing macroscopic amounts of antimatter for research and later commercial use.
nuge
not rated yet Nov 02, 2009
LHC might have some smaller, cheaper, more easily fixable competition on their hands.
In which case theyll have nothing better to do than to start manufacturing macroscopic amounts of antimatter for research and later commercial use.


Or better yet they could use the laser wakefield for that.
nuge
not rated yet Nov 02, 2009
By the way, if CERN starts producing antimatter right now for commercial purposes, as you seem really keen to see, they could perhaps have a gram of it ready for you in only 2 billion years! Storing it would be a big problem though.
NeilFarbstein
not rated yet Nov 03, 2009
protons have regularly been accelerated to 99.9999% of the speed of light since, the bevatron was first operated in brookhaven lab in the 1950s.
otto1923
not rated yet Nov 03, 2009
, they could perhaps have a gram of it ready for you in only 2 billion years! Storing it would be a big problem though.
They would have to reconfigure somewhat. Easier to do at this facility than anywhere else on earth, but certainly possible in many places. Storage- thats what tokamaks are for. How far to ITER? About 300 mi?
denfire
not rated yet Nov 06, 2009
Sounds like a new weapon is soon to be on the market!

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