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Proton-driven plasma-wakefield acceleration

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Plasmas excited by laser beams or bunches of relativistic electrons have been used to produce electric fields of 10–100 GV m−1. This has opened up the possibility of building compact particle accelerators at the gigaelectronvolt scale. However, it is not obvious how to scale these approaches to the energy frontier of particle physics—the teraelectronvolt regime. Here, we introduce the possibility of proton-bunch-driven plasma-wakefield acceleration, and demonstrate through numerical simulations that this energy regime could be reached in a single accelerating stage.

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Figure 1: A schematic description of a section of the plasma-wakefield-accelerating structure.
Figure 2: The electric field strength and the electron density in the plasma.
Figure 3: Evolution of the proton bunch and electron bunch in the plasma.
Figure 4: Electron energy versus distance.

Change history

  • 24 April 2009

    In the version of this article originally published online, in the first equation of the section 'Initial considerations', the denominator was mistakenly not included within the square-root sign. This has been corrected in all versions of the article.


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We would like to thank S. Chattopadhyay, E. Elsen and F. Willeke for useful discussions concerning proton-bunch compression. This work has been supported in part by the Russian Science Support Foundation, Russian President grants MD-4704.2007.2 and NSh-6046.2008.2, RFBR grant 06-02-16757 and the Russian Ministry of Education grant RNP.

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Correspondence to Allen Caldwell.

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Caldwell, A., Lotov, K., Pukhov, A. et al. Proton-driven plasma-wakefield acceleration. Nature Phys 5, 363–367 (2009).

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