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Quasi-monoenergetic and tunable X-rays from a laser-driven Compton light source


The maximum achievable photon energy of compact, conventional, Compton-scattering X-ray sources is currently limited by the maximum permissible field gradient of conventional electron accelerators1,2. An alternative compact Compton X-ray source architecture with no such limitation is based instead on a high-field-gradient laser–wakefield accelerator3,4,5,6. In this case, a single high-power (100 TW) laser system generates intense laser pulses, which are used for both electron acceleration and scattering. Although such all-laser-based sources have been demonstrated to be bright and energetic in proof-of-principle experiments7,8,9,10, to date they have lacked several important distinguishing characteristics of conventional Compton sources. We now report the experimental demonstration of all-laser-driven Compton X-rays that are both quasi-monoenergetic (50% full-width at half-maximum) and tunable (70 keV to >1 MeV). These performance improvements are highly beneficial for several important X-ray radiological applications2,11,12,13,14,15.

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Figure 1: X-ray generation and detection.
Figure 2: X-ray bandwidth measurement.
Figure 3: X-ray energy tuning.


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The authors thank K. Brown, J. Mills and C. Petersen for their contributions to the laser facility. The authors thank D. Haden and N. Cunningham from Nebraska Wesleyan University for their contributions to X-ray detector analysis. The authors thank C. Wilson, T. Anderson and D. Alexander from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Electrical Engineering department for precision-cutting of Ross filters. This material is based on work supported by the US Department of Energy (DE-FG02-05ER15663), the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (HDTRA1-11-C-0001), the Air Force Office for Scientific Research (FA 9550-08-1-0232 and FA9550-11-1-0157), the Department of Homeland Security (2007-DN-077-ER0007-02), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (FA9550-09-1-0009) and USSTRATCOM (FA4600-12-D-9000). The views expressed here do not represent those of the sponsors.

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The experiments were conceived and designed by D.U., N.P., S.B., S.C., I.G., C.L. and G.G. Experiments were carried out by G.G., N.P., S.B., S.C., I.G., C.L. and J.Z. Data analysis was performed by G.G., I.G. and N.P. Materials and analysis tools were provided by G.G., I.G., S.B. and N.P. The manuscript was written by D.U. and N.P.

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Correspondence to D. P. Umstadter.

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Powers, N., Ghebregziabher, I., Golovin, G. et al. Quasi-monoenergetic and tunable X-rays from a laser-driven Compton light source. Nature Photon 8, 28–31 (2014).

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