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A laser–plasma accelerator producing monoenergetic electron beams


Particle accelerators are used in a wide variety of fields, ranging from medicine and biology to high-energy physics. The accelerating fields in conventional accelerators are limited to a few tens of MeV m-1, owing to material breakdown at the walls of the structure. Thus, the production of energetic particle beams currently requires large-scale accelerators and expensive infrastructures. Laser–plasma accelerators1 have been proposed as a next generation of compact accelerators because of the huge electric fields they can sustain2,3,4,5 (>100 GeV m-1). However, it has been difficult to use them efficiently for applications because they have produced poor-quality particle beams with large energy spreads2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10, owing to a randomization of electrons in phase space. Here we demonstrate that this randomization can be suppressed and that the quality of the electron beams can be dramatically enhanced. Within a length of 3 mm, the laser drives a plasma bubble11 that traps and accelerates plasma electrons. The resulting electron beam is extremely collimated and quasi-monoenergetic, with a high charge of 0.5 nC at 170 MeV.

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Figure 1: Experimental set-up.
Figure 2: Raw images obtained on the LANEX screen.
Figure 3: Experimental and simulated electron spectra.
Figure 4: 3D PIC simulation results.


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We acknowledge support from the European Community Research Infrastructure Activity under the FP6 “Structuring the European Research Area” programme (CARE) and from the German Scientific Council (DFG).

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Correspondence to V. Malka.

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Faure, J., Glinec, Y., Pukhov, A. et al. A laser–plasma accelerator producing monoenergetic electron beams. Nature 431, 541–544 (2004).

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