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All-optical Compton gamma-ray source


One of the major goals of research for laser-plasma accelerators1 is the realization of compact sources of femtosecond X-rays2,3,4. In particular, using the modest electron energies obtained with existing laser systems, Compton scattering a photon beam off a relativistic electron bunch has been proposed as a source of high-energy and high-brightness photons. However, laser-plasma based approaches to Compton scattering have not, to date, produced X-rays above 1 keV. Here, we present a simple and compact scheme for a Compton source based on the combination of a laser-plasma accelerator and a plasma mirror. This approach is used to produce a broadband spectrum of X-rays extending up to hundreds of keV and with a 10,000-fold increase in brightness over Compton X-ray sources based on conventional accelerators5,6. We anticipate that this technique will lead to compact, high-repetition-rate sources of ultrafast (femtosecond), tunable (X- through gamma-ray) and low-divergence (1°) photons from source sizes on the order of a micrometre.

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Figure 1: Principle of the Compton backscattering source.
Figure 2: Evolution of the X-ray signal as a function of the foil position.
Figure 3: Spectrum obtained experimentally and numerical simulation.
Figure 4: Radiography and source size measurement.


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The authors acknowledge the European Research Council for support through the PARIS ERC project (contract no. 226424). The authors acknowledge LOA technical staff for experimental assistance.

Author information




K.T.P., S.C. and C.T. conceived and realized the experiment, and contributed equally to this work. K.T.P., S.C., C.T. and V.M. analysed the data. K.T.P., S.C., C.T., V.M., R.C. and A.R. wrote the paper. J.P.G. and A.T. operated the laser system. R.S. proposed the experiment. V.M., A.R. and S.S. supported the project.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to K. Ta Phuoc or S. Corde.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Ta Phuoc, K., Corde, S., Thaury, C. et al. All-optical Compton gamma-ray source. Nature Photon 6, 308–311 (2012).

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