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Particle Accelerator Record Set by Tabletop Laser-Plasma Device

By    |   Tuesday, 09 Dec 2014 07:17 AM

A particle acceleration record has been set by government researchers using a revolutionary tabletop device with the ability to produce particle speeds that could rival traditional accelerators with miles of circumference.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Lab in California said in a statement on Monday that it created a laser-plasma particle accelerator that can sit on table. The scientists said they use specialized petawatt laser and a charged-particle gas called plasma to speed up the particles.

Particle accelerators, such as the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the world's most powerful particle accelerator located near Geneva, use miles and miles of circular metal tube to speed up particles by modulating electric fields inside the cavity, according to the Berkeley Lab.

"This result requires exquisite control over the laser and the plasma," said Wim Leemans, director of the Accelerator Technology and Applied Physics Division at Berkeley Lab and lead author on the paper on the new accelerator that appears in the latest issue of the Physical Review Letters.

Berkeley researchers said they were able to speed up electrons inside a nine-centimeter long tube of plasma to an energy of 4.25 giga-electron volts, which corresponds to an energy gradient 1,000 times greater than traditional particle accelerators, marking a world record energy for laser-plasma accelerators.

"It is an extraordinary achievement for Dr. Leemans and his team to produce this record-breaking result in their first operational campaign with (Berkeley Lab Laser Accelerator)," said James Symons, associate laboratory director for Physical Sciences at Berkeley Lab.

"To be fair to traditional particle accelerators, laser-plasma accelerators take a completely different approach to exciting particles to such enormous energy levels," wrote Colin Jeffrey of Gizmag.com, noting that the Berkeley laser accelerator, called BELLA, is one of the most powerful lasers in the world.

"This laser system produces a beam of light equivalent to a quadrillion watts of power (a petawatt), which the Berkeley researchers used to focus on the very small, straw-like tube that contained the plasma of their particle accelerator. Though, in this initial experiment, it was limited to pulses of a 'mere' 0.3 PW or 300,000 gigawatts," wrote Jeffrey.

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A particle acceleration record has been set by government researchers using a revolutionary tabletop device with the ability to produce particle speeds that could rival traditional accelerators with miles of circumference.
particle, accelerator, record, tabletop, device
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2014-17-09
Tuesday, 09 Dec 2014 07:17 AM
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