In an outstanding achievement, physicists have broken the world record for particle acceleration. They have managed to increase the acceleration of electron rays from none to 7.8 billion electron volts (GeV), all this in just 20 centimeters (8 inches).
This almost doubles the team’s prior energy result of 4.2 GeV in 9 centimeters, showing a method to hugely enhance plasma wakefield acceleration.
High energy particle acceleration is crucial for better understanding the particles our Universe is formed of, but they also have some quite massive limitations, more so when it comes to size and cost. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) incorporates a vacuum tunnel located deep underground, with a perimeter of 26.7 kilometers (16.6 miles).
Besides the tunnel, metallic chambers are placed at distances to produce radiofrequency waves, which send energy to the particles passing by to give them a velocity push per meter (5MV/m) to eventually achieve speeds close to that of light in a vacuum.
The New Plasma Waveguide Concept
In 2018, physicists at CERN revealed that utilizing a developing technology known as ‘plasma wakefield acceleration,’ they’d managed to achieve an acceleration gradient of 200 MV/m. That caused an acceleration of almost 2 GeV in 10 meters, working identical to wakesurfing.
Laser pulses are utilized to produce plasma waves with electromagnetic fields that can be thousands of times more powerful than radiofrequency fields. In addition, similar to a wakesurfer that uses the waves generated in the wake of a boat to accelerate, particles can surge the plasma waves to increase their energy.
To develop this achievement, physicists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory created and included a plasma waveguide. These can be utilized to alleviate laser diffraction of focused laser pulses, which boosts the acceleration length and the energy gain for a given laser power, the researchers wrote in their paper.
The research was published in Physical Review Letters and will be presented at the 61st Annual Meeting of the APS Division of Plasma Physics.