Fastest waves ever photographed

Oct 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: New filter could advance terahertz data transmission

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Novel high-power microwave generator

Feb 11, 2015

High-power microwaves are frequently used in civil applications, such as radar and communication systems, heating and current drive of plasmas in fusion devices, and acceleration in high-energy linear colliders. ...

Recommended for you

New filter could advance terahertz data transmission

Feb 27, 2015

University of Utah engineers have discovered a new approach for designing filters capable of separating different frequencies in the terahertz spectrum, the next generation of communications bandwidth that ...

The super-resolution revolution

Feb 27, 2015

Cambridge scientists are part of a resolution revolution. Building powerful instruments that shatter the physical limits of optical microscopy, they are beginning to watch molecular processes as they happen, ...

A new X-ray microscope for nanoscale imaging

Feb 27, 2015

Delivering the capability to image nanostructures and chemical reactions down to nanometer resolution requires a new class of x-ray microscope that can perform precision microscopy experiments using ultra-bright ...

Top-precision optical atomic clock starts ticking

Feb 26, 2015

A state-of-the-art optical atomic clock, collaboratively developed by scientists from the University of Warsaw, Jagiellonian University, and Nicolaus Copernicus University, is now "ticking away" at the National ...

User comments : 0

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.