A Team of Researchers Plans to Shrink Particle Accelerators

Particle accelerators have played a vital role in the evolution of science, as they offered valuable information for several fields, among which we can count physics, chemistry, biology, and medicine.

A team of researchers has achieved a major milestone as they doubled the amount of energy generated by a laser-plasma accelerator, a feat that could lead to the development of smaller and more powerful accelerators across the world.

In most cases, particle accelerators require a significant amount of space. The Large Hadron Collider has a circumference of 16.7 miles (or 27 kilometers.) A large number of parts are needed for the proper functioning of the device: a beam pipe is fitted with strong electromagnets which can guide the particles, electric fields need to be switchable from positive to negative at the flick of a button, a target needs to be present, and detectors have to track the collisions which take place during the process.

The team of researchers believes that a plasma wave could offer the acceleration with the help of an accelerator present within the electric field. Several lasers pulses could create a plasma wave which could be up to thousands of times stronger in comparison to the electric fields found in regular accelerators.

By using plasma waves, the team generated electron beams which reached 7.8 billion electron volts within an 8-inch plasma. A conventional collider would require 300 feet to reach the same performance.

In the past, a major roadblock stemmed from the fact that plasma waves will tend to spread. To mitigate this problem the team created a new waveguide that can keep them on a controlled track as an electrical discharge will take place a sapphire tube. After the tube is filled with gas and faces an electrical discharge the gas will transform into plasma. A laser pulse will release some of the plasma from the middle. More research will take place in the future.

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