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Laser-plasma acceleration of quasi-monoenergetic protons from microstructured targets


Particle acceleration based on high intensity laser systems (a process known as laser–plasma acceleration) has achieved high quality particle beams that compare favourably with conventional acceleration techniques in terms of emittance, brightness and pulse duration1,2,3,4. A long-term difficulty associated with laser–plasma acceleration—the very broad, exponential energy spectrum of the emitted particles—has been overcome recently for electron beams5,6,7. Here we report analogous results for ions, specifically the production of quasi-monoenergetic proton beams using laser–plasma accelerators. Reliable and reproducible laser-accelerated ion beams were achieved by intense laser irradiation of solid microstructured targets. This proof-of-principle experiment serves to illuminate the role of laser-generated plasmas as feasible particle sources. Scalability studies show that, owing to their compact size and reasonable cost, such table-top laser systems with high repetition rates could contribute to the development of new generations of particle injectors that may be suitable for medical proton therapy8,9,10.

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Figure 1: Laser acceleration of protons from the back side of a microstructured target.
Figure 2: Experimental and target arrangement for laser proton acceleration from microstructured targets.
Figure 3: Proton spectra from the Thomson spectrometer.
Figure 4: Results from simulations and scalability of the technique.


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This work was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. T.E. thanks S. V. Bulanov for discussions. K.W.D.L. takes pleasure in the receipt of a Carl-Zeiss visiting professorship. We thank F. Ronneberger and B. Beleites for their technical support. We thank H.-J. Fuchs and W. Gräf for their help in producing the targets.

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Schwoerer, H., Pfotenhauer, S., Jäckel, O. et al. Laser-plasma acceleration of quasi-monoenergetic protons from microstructured targets. Nature 439, 445–448 (2006).

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