Acceleration of relativistic beams using laser-generated terahertz pulses


Particle accelerators driven by laser-generated terahertz (THz) pulses promise unprecedented control over the energy–time phase space of particle bunches compared with conventional radiofrequency technology. Here we demonstrate acceleration of a relativistic electron beam in a THz-driven linear accelerator. Narrowband THz pulses were tuned to the phase-velocity-matched operating frequency of a rectangular dielectric-lined waveguide for extended collinear interaction with 35 MeV, 60 pC electron bunches, imparting multicycle energy modulation to chirped (6 ps) bunches and injection phase-dependent energy gain (up to 10 keV) to subcycle (2 ps) bunches. These proof-of-principle results establish a route to whole-bunch linear acceleration of subpicosecond particle beams, directly applicable to scaled-up and multistaged concepts capable of preserving beam quality, thus marking a key milestone for future THz-driven acceleration of relativistic beams.

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Fig. 1: Experimental set-up.
Fig. 2: Multicycle energy modulation.
Fig. 3: Phase-velocity matching.
Fig. 4: Subcycle bunch acceleration.

Data availability

The data associated with this paper are openly available from the Zenodo data repository at Source data are provided with this paper.


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We acknowledge the technical and scientific teams at the Compact Linear Accelerator for Research and Applications (CLARA) facility for their support and considerable help with all aspects of the operation of the accelerator. We also acknowledge P. G. Huggard and M. Beardsley from Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) – Space for the manufacture of the dielectric-lined waveguide structure and for the provision of a THz Schottky diode used for THz-electron beam synchronization. This work was supported by the United Kingdom Science and Technology Facilities Council (grant nos. ST/N00308X/1, ST/N003063/1 and ST/P002056/1).

Author information




All authors participated in the experiment and contributed to data analysis. M.T.H., D.S.L., D.A.W., V.G., O.J.F. and D.M.G. developed the THz source. A.L.H., G.B. and S.P.J. designed the DLW. A.L.H., E.J.H.S., O.J.F., R.B.A. and S.P.J. modelled the electron energy spectra and performed the longitudinal phase-space calculations. V.G. characterized the DLW and developed the data acquisition software. T.H.P., J.K.J. and Y.S. analysed the beam dynamics of the CLARA accelerator. M.T.H., D.M.G. and S.P.J. wrote the manuscript with contributions from all. E.W.S., R.B.A., G.B., D.M.G. and S.P.J. managed the project.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Steven P. Jamison.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary information and figures on waveguide dimensions (Fig. 1), waveguide dispersion (Fig. 2), THz transmission measurements (Fig. 3), interaction length (Fig. 4) and transverse effects.

Source data

Source Data Fig. 1

Numerical data used to generate Fig. 1b,c.

Source Data Fig. 2

Numerical data used to generate Fig. 2a–f.

Source Data Fig. 3

Numerical data used to generate Fig. 3.

Source Data Fig. 4

Numerical data used to generate Fig. 4a–d.

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Hibberd, M.T., Healy, A.L., Lake, D.S. et al. Acceleration of relativistic beams using laser-generated terahertz pulses. Nat. Photonics (2020).

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