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Concept: Particle accelerator


Laser-plasma wakefield accelerators have seen tremendous progress, now capable of producing quasi-monoenergetic electron beams in the GeV energy range with few-femtoseconds bunch duration. Scaling these accelerators to the nanocoulomb range would yield hundreds of kiloamperes peak current and stimulate the next generation of radiation sources covering high-field THz, high-brightness X-ray and γ-ray sources, compact free-electron lasers and laboratory-size beam-driven plasma accelerators. However, accelerators generating such currents operate in the beam loading regime where the accelerating field is strongly modified by the self-fields of the injected bunch, potentially deteriorating key beam parameters. Here we demonstrate that, if appropriately controlled, the beam loading effect can be employed to improve the accelerator’s performance. Self-truncated ionization injection enables loading of unprecedented charges of ∼0.5 nC within a mono-energetic peak. As the energy balance is reached, we show that the accelerator operates at the theoretically predicted optimal loading condition and the final energy spread is minimized.Higher beam quality and stability are desired in laser-plasma accelerators for their applications in compact light sources. Here the authors demonstrate in laser plasma wakefield electron acceleration that the beam loading effect can be employed to improve beam quality by controlling the beam charge.

Concepts: Electron, Electric charge, Light, Electromagnetic radiation, Laser, Plasma, Particle accelerator, Laser beam profiler


Lightning and thunderclouds are natural particle accelerators. Avalanches of relativistic runaway electrons, which develop in electric fields within thunderclouds, emit bremsstrahlung γ-rays. These γ-rays have been detected by ground-based observatories, by airborne detectors and as terrestrial γ-ray flashes from space. The energy of the γ-rays is sufficiently high that they can trigger atmospheric photonuclear reactions that produce neutrons and eventually positrons via β(+) decay of the unstable radioactive isotopes, most notably (13)N, which is generated via (14)N + γ → (13)N + n, where γ denotes a photon and n a neutron. However, this reaction has hitherto not been observed conclusively, despite increasing observational evidence of neutrons and positrons that are presumably derived from such reactions. Here we report ground-based observations of neutron and positron signals after lightning. During a thunderstorm on 6 February 2017 in Japan, a γ-ray flash with a duration of less than one millisecond was detected at our monitoring sites 0.5-1.7 kilometres away from the lightning. The subsequent γ-ray afterglow subsided quickly, with an exponential decay constant of 40-60 milliseconds, and was followed by prolonged line emission at about 0.511 megaelectronvolts, which lasted for a minute. The observed decay timescale and spectral cutoff at about 10 megaelectronvolts of the γ-ray afterglow are well explained by de-excitation γ-rays from nuclei excited by neutron capture. The centre energy of the prolonged line emission corresponds to electron-positron annihilation, providing conclusive evidence of positrons being produced after the lightning.

Concepts: Electron, Photon, Fundamental physics concepts, Spin, Lightning, Positron, Radioactive decay, Particle accelerator


Purpose: This work investigates the dose-response curves of GAFCHROMIC(®) EBT, EBT2, and EBT3 radiochromic films using synchrotron-produced monochromatic x-ray beams. EBT2 film is being utilized for dose verification in photoactivated Auger electron therapy at the Louisiana State University Center for Advanced Microstructures and Devices (CAMD) synchrotron facility.Methods: Monochromatic beams of 25, 30, and 35 keV were generated on the tomography beamline at CAMD. Ion chamber depth-dose measurements were used to determine the dose delivered to films irradiated at depths from 0.7 to 8.5 cm in a 10 × 10 × 10-cm(3) polymethylmethacrylate phantom. AAPM TG-61 protocol was applied to convert measured ionization into dose. Films were digitized using an Epson 1680 Professional flatbed scanner and analyzed using the net optical density (NOD) derived from the red channel. A dose-response curve was obtained at 35 keV for EBT film, and at 25, 30, and 35 keV for EBT2 and EBT3 films. Calibrations of films for 4 MV x-rays were obtained for comparison using a radiotherapy accelerator at Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center.Results: The sensitivity (NOD per unit dose) of EBT film at 35 keV relative to that for 4-MV x-rays was 0.73 and 0.76 for doses 50 and 100 cGy, respectively. The sensitivity of EBT2 film at 25, 30, and 35 keV relative to that for 4-MV x-rays varied from 1.09-1.07, 1.23-1.17, and 1.27-1.19 for doses 50-200 cGy, respectively. For EBT3 film the relative sensitivity was within 3% of unity for all three monochromatic x-ray beams.Conclusions: EBT and EBT2 film sensitivity showed strong energy dependence over an energy range of 25 keV-4 MV, although this dependence becomes weaker for larger doses. EBT3 film shows weak energy dependence, indicating that it would be a better dosimeter for kV x-ray beams where beam hardening effects can result in large changes in the effective energy.

Concepts: Electron, Ionizing radiation, Light, Electromagnetic radiation, Medical imaging, Particle accelerator, Dose-response relationship, Photographic film


Laser-wakefield accelerators are compact devices capable of delivering ultra-short electron bunches with pC-level charge and MeV-GeV energy by exploiting the ultra-high electric fields arising from the interaction of intense laser pulses with plasma. We show experimentally and through numerical simulations that a high-energy electron beam is produced simultaneously with two stable lower-energy beams that are ejected in oblique and counter-propagating directions, typically carrying off 5-10% of the initial laser energy. A MeV, 10s nC oblique beam is ejected in a 30°-60° hollow cone, which is filled with more energetic electrons determined by the injection dynamics. A nC-level, 100s keV backward-directed beam is mainly produced at the leading edge of the plasma column. We discuss the apportioning of absorbed laser energy amongst the three beams. Knowledge of the distribution of laser energy and electron beam charge, which determine the overall efficiency, is important for various applications of laser-wakefield accelerators, including the development of staged high-energy accelerators.

Concepts: Electron, Electric charge, Photon, Quantum mechanics, Fundamental physics concepts, Light, Particle physics, Particle accelerator


Experimental verification of a novel sensor topology capable of measuring both the position and energy of an electron beam inside a compact electron linear accelerator for radiotherapy is presented. The method applies microwave sensing techniques and allows for non-interceptive monitoring of the respective beam parameters within compact accelerators for medical or industrial purposes. A state space feedback approach is described with the help of which beam displacements, once detected, can be corrected within a few system macropulses. The proof-of-principle experiments have been conducted with a prototype accelerator and customized hardware. Additionally, closed-loop operation with high accuracy is demonstrated.

Concepts: Electron, Mathematics, Control theory, Compact space, Particle accelerator, Synchrotron, Linear particle accelerator, Klystron


We introduce a method for directly imaging depletion layers in operando with elemental specificity and chemical speciation at sub-100 nm spatial resolution applicable to today’s three-dimensional electronic architectures. These typically contain complex, multicomponent designs consisting of epitaxial heterostructures, buried domains, or nanostructures with different shapes and sizes. Although the variety of devices is immense, they commonly rely on carrier separation in a built-in potential induced by composition or strain gradients. To image these, we scanned a focused synchrotron x-ray nanobeam over a single semiconductor nanowire heterostructure and simultaneously measured the current through the device and the emitted characteristic x-rays as a function of the incoming hard x-ray energy. With these results, it is possible to identify the compositional and molecular structure as well as localize the electrical fields present under typical working conditions. This information allows us to draw an energy band diagram consistent with the elemental distribution and a high-resolution chemical speciation map.

Concepts: Electron, Diffraction, X-ray, Light, Semiconductor, X-ray crystallography, Particle accelerator, Semiconductors


The enormous size and cost of current state-of-the-art accelerators based on conventional radio-frequency technology has spawned great interest in the development of new acceleration concepts that are more compact and economical. Micro-fabricated dielectric laser accelerators (DLAs) are an attractive approach, because such dielectric microstructures can support accelerating fields one to two orders of magnitude higher than can radio-frequency cavity-based accelerators. DLAs use commercial lasers as a power source, which are smaller and less expensive than the radio-frequency klystrons that power today’s accelerators. In addition, DLAs are fabricated via low-cost, lithographic techniques that can be used for mass production. However, despite several DLA structures being proposed recently, no successful demonstration of acceleration in these structures has so far been shown. Here we report high-gradient (beyond 250 MeV m(-1)) acceleration of electrons in a DLA. Relativistic (60-MeV) electrons are energy-modulated over 563 ± 104 optical periods of a fused silica grating structure, powered by a 800-nm-wavelength mode-locked Ti:sapphire laser. The observed results are in agreement with analytical models and electrodynamic simulations. By comparison, conventional modern linear accelerators operate at gradients of 10-30 MeV m(-1), and the first linear radio-frequency cavity accelerator was ten radio-frequency periods (one metre) long with a gradient of approximately 1.6 MeV m(-1) (ref. 5). Our results set the stage for the development of future multi-staged DLA devices composed of integrated on-chip systems. This would enable compact table-top accelerators on the MeV-GeV (10(6)-10(9) eV) scale for security scanners and medical therapy, university-scale X-ray light sources for biological and materials research, and portable medical imaging devices, and would substantially reduce the size and cost of a future collider on the multi-TeV (10(12) eV) scale.

Concepts: Electron, Medicine, Magnetic field, X-ray, Light, Gradient, Materials science, Particle accelerator


High-efficiency acceleration of charged particle beams at high gradients of energy gain per unit length is necessary to achieve an affordable and compact high-energy collider. The plasma wakefield accelerator is one concept being developed for this purpose. In plasma wakefield acceleration, a charge-density wake with high accelerating fields is driven by the passage of an ultra-relativistic bunch of charged particles (the drive bunch) through a plasma. If a second bunch of relativistic electrons (the trailing bunch) with sufficient charge follows in the wake of the drive bunch at an appropriate distance, it can be efficiently accelerated to high energy. Previous experiments using just a single 42-gigaelectronvolt drive bunch have accelerated electrons with a continuous energy spectrum and a maximum energy of up to 85 gigaelectronvolts from the tail of the same bunch in less than a metre of plasma. However, the total charge of these accelerated electrons was insufficient to extract a substantial amount of energy from the wake. Here we report high-efficiency acceleration of a discrete trailing bunch of electrons that contains sufficient charge to extract a substantial amount of energy from the high-gradient, nonlinear plasma wakefield accelerator. Specifically, we show the acceleration of about 74 picocoulombs of charge contained in the core of the trailing bunch in an accelerating gradient of about 4.4 gigavolts per metre. These core particles gain about 1.6 gigaelectronvolts of energy per particle, with a final energy spread as low as 0.7 per cent (2.0 per cent on average), and an energy-transfer efficiency from the wake to the bunch that can exceed 30 per cent (17.7 per cent on average). This acceleration of a distinct bunch of electrons containing a substantial charge and having a small energy spread with both a high accelerating gradient and a high energy-transfer efficiency represents a milestone in the development of plasma wakefield acceleration into a compact and affordable accelerator technology.

Concepts: Electron, Electric charge, Photon, Fundamental physics concepts, Particle physics, Classical mechanics, Acceleration, Particle accelerator


In LaAlO3/SrTiO3 heterostructures, a gate tunable superconducting electron gas is confined in a quantum well at the interface between two insulating oxides. Remarkably, the gas coexists with both magnetism and strong Rashba spin-orbit coupling. However, both the origin of superconductivity and the nature of the transition to the normal state over the whole doping range remain elusive. Here we use resonant microwave transport to extract the superfluid stiffness and the superconducting gap energy of the LaAlO3/SrTiO3 interface as a function of carrier density. We show that the superconducting phase diagram of this system is controlled by the competition between electron pairing and phase coherence. The analysis of the superfluid density reveals that only a very small fraction of the electrons condenses into the superconducting state. We propose that this corresponds to the weak filling of high-energy dxz/dyz bands in the quantum well, more apt to host superconductivity.

Concepts: Electron, Quantum mechanics, Fundamental physics concepts, Spin, Condensed matter physics, Phase transition, Superconductivity, Particle accelerator


Particle accelerators have made an enormous impact in all fields of natural sciences, from elementary particle physics, to the imaging of proteins and the development of new pharmaceuticals. Modern light sources have advanced many fields by providing extraordinarily bright, short X-ray pulses. Here we present a novel numerical study, demonstrating that existing third generation light sources can significantly enhance the brightness and photon energy of their X-ray pulses by undulating their beams within plasma wakefields. This study shows that a three order of magnitude increase in X-ray brightness and over an order of magnitude increase in X-ray photon energy is achieved by passing a 3 GeV electron beam through a two-stage plasma insertion device. The production mechanism micro-bunches the electron beam and ensures the pulses are radially polarised on creation. We also demonstrate that the micro-bunched electron beam is itself an effective wakefield driver that can potentially accelerate a witness electron beam up to 6 GeV.

Concepts: Electron, Photon, Quantum mechanics, Light, Matter, Particle physics, Particle accelerator, Standard Model