Acceleration and manipulation of electron bunches underlie most electron and X-ray devices used for ultrafast imaging and spectroscopy. New terahertz-driven concepts offer orders-of-magnitude improvements in field strengths, field gradients, laser synchronization and compactness relative to conventional radiofrequency devices, enabling shorter electron bunches and higher resolution with less infrastructure while maintaining high charge capacities (pC), repetition rates (kHz) and stability. We present a segmented terahertz electron accelerator and manipulator (STEAM) capable of performing multiple high-field operations on the six-dimensional phase space of ultrashort electron bunches. With this single device, powered by few-microjoule, single-cycle, 0.3 THz pulses, we demonstrate record terahertz acceleration of >30 keV, streaking with <10 fs resolution, focusing with >2 kT m–1 strength, compression to ~100 fs as well as real-time switching between these modes of operation. The STEAM device demonstrates the feasibility of terahertz-based electron accelerators, manipulators and diagnostic tools, enabling science beyond current resolution frontiers with transformative impact.
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We gratefully acknowledge helpful discussions with C. Zhou, W. R. Huang, F. Ahr and W. Qiao, the expert technical support of T. Tilp, and M. Schust for fabrication of the STEAM devices used in this work. Besides Deutsches Elektronen Synchrotron (DESY) and the Helmholtz Association, this work was supported by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) through the Synergy Grant ‘Frontiers in Attosecond X-ray Science: Imaging and Spectroscopy’ (AXSIS) (609920) and the excellence cluster ‘The Hamburg Center for Ultrafast Imaging – Structure, Dynamics and Control of Matter at the Atomic Scale’ (CUI, DFG-EXC1074), the priority programme ‘Quantum Dynamics in Tailored Intense Fields’ (QUTIF) (SPP1840 SOLSTICE) of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and the accelerator on a chip programme (ACHIP) funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (GBMF4744). The authors also thank T. Y. Fan and J. Zayhowski from MIT Lincoln Laboratory for initial work on the cryogenic Yb:YLF laser within the AXIS Program funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and DARPA for the loan of the laser. X.W. acknowledges support through a Georg Forster Research Fellowship of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and A.-L.C through a Helmholtz Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Helmholtz Association.