New laser-based particle accelerator – More powerful and much smaller

Particle accelerators are vital in studying the fundamentals of particle physics. Apart from research, accelerators with varying energy outputs are used in several fields, including medical diagnostics, oncological purposes, and measurement of isotopes, to name a few.

Typical particle accelerator uses electromagnetic or electrostatic fields to propel electrons to very high speeds and high energies and contains them in well-defined beams. The largest particle accelerator that is currently in use is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The LHC, an electromagnetic collider accelerator, accelerates two electron beams to the very high energy of 6.5 TeV and collides them head-on. LHC is used in the research for Higgs Boson, commonly called the God Particle.

LHC Image Courtsey: CERN

It is challenging, as to generate more energetic electrons, a much larger accelerator is required. For example, the LHC’s particle accelerator is 17 miles long. What if there is a way to downsize the accelerator and still produce high energy electrons?

Researchers at the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) has outlined a method using high-intensity Laser light, that can accelerate electrons to high energies in very short distances. As per the researcher’s estimate, this would be 10,000 times smaller than a typical particle accelerator to generate similar intensity.

How does it work?

The theoretical particle accelerator, also known as Laser Wakefield Accelerators (LWFA), outlined by the researchers at LLE, sculpts the laser light instead of focusing all the light at one spot. The researchers developed an innovative optical setup that resembles a circular amphitheater with wavelength sized steps. When a high-intensity light is focussed using this optical setup, it creates a time delay between the concentric rings of light. The researchers can focus each ring of light at a different distance from the source, creating a high-intensity sculpted light pulse instead of a single spot.

Illustration depicting the method outline by LLE researchers to shape intense laser light in a way that accelerates electrons to record energies in very short distances. | Image: H. Palmer and K. Palmisano

When this sculpted light pulse enters the plasma, it creates a wake similar to a wake behind a motorboat. The wake propagates at the speed of light, and electrons accelerate as they ride the wake, much like skiers riding a boat’s wake. This way, electrons can accelerate to faster than light speeds and continually accelerate.

The concept of Laser Wakefield Accelerators is not new and is nearly 40 years old. Previous versions used unstructured light pulses that propagated much slower than the speed of light, causing electrons to outrun the wake. The invention of Chirped-Pulse Amplification (CPA) in 2018, by a technique developed by Nobel Laureates, Donna Strickland, and Gerard Mourou, advanced this concept.

While the research is theoretical, the LLE is working on plans to construct the highest-powered laser in the world, named EP-OPAL, to generate the extremely high powered sculpted light pulses. The LWFA would be a game-changer as this could allow electrons to be accelerated to speeds beyond what is possible today with the current technologies.

Join our writing team and develop your writing skills, as you see your articles featured on Apple NewsGoogle News, and all around the worldSubscribe to our newsletter, What Just Happened, where we dive deep into the hottest topics from the week!


More from Science – News Landed

Is chloroquine really effective against COVID-19?
Researchers feel wearable apps could be an answer to detecting asymptomatic COVID-19 cases

Popular Stories – News Landed

The 2020 Wimbledon Championships canceled due to COVID-19
Create your own planet on ‘Earth-like’ – online planet builder

Related Stories

Electronic pulses in molecules revealed by Attosecond pulses

Scientists from the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University demonstrated that they could create ripples...

Laser beams reflected from the Moon’s surface – To boost study of Moon

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has been orbiting and studying the moon since its launch in 2009. Engineers have...

Featured Stories

Will Telosa be the “City of the Future” by 2030?

Shenzhen, China was a sleepy fishing village in 1979. A mere forty years later, it is one of the...

Low-cost lead adsorbing water filter designed by Indian students

Two students from India have designed a low-cost lead water filter that can be made with locally sourced materials....

Make it Rain! Dubai uses drones to conjure rain from the skies

You can order food, hail a driver, and even find a spouse with the click of a button; but...

Physicists have created the world’s thinnest magnet. Just one atom thick!

Can you guess the size of the thinnest magnet? It is just one atom thick. Scientists from the University of...

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak reverse decision to avoid self-isolation following ping by NHS contact tracing

Following the Health Secretary's diagnosis with COVID-19, the Prime Minister and Chancellor were notified by NHS Test and Trace...

India is one of the largest producers of COVID vaccine and yet faces major internal shortages

The worsening situation in India finally gained some stabilization around September 2020. Usually, when things start getting better, people...