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07.12.2006

Nature 444, 737-739 (7 December 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature05393; Received 4 July 2006; Accepted 26 October 2006


Controlled injection and acceleration of electrons in plasma wakefields by colliding laser pulses


J. Faure1, C. Rechatin1, A. Norlin1, A. Lifschitz1, Y. Glinec1 and V. Malka1



  1. Laboratoire d'Optique Appliquée, ENSTA, CNRS, Ecole Polytechnique, UMR 7639, 91761 Palaiseau, France


Correspondence to: V. Malka1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to V.M. (Email: victor.malka@ensta.fr).





In laser-plasma-based accelerators1, an intense laser pulse drives a large electric field (the wakefield) which accelerates particles to high energies in distances much shorter than in conventional accelerators. These high acceleration gradients, of a few hundreds of gigavolts per metre, hold the promise of compact high-energy particle accelerators. Recently, several experiments have shown that laser-plasma accelerators can produce high-quality electron beams, with quasi-monoenergetic energy distributions at the 100 MeV level2, 3, 4. However, these beams do not have the stability and reproducibility that are required for applications. This is because the mechanism responsible for injecting electrons into the wakefield is based on highly nonlinear phenomena5, and is therefore hard to control. Here we demonstrate that the injection and subsequent acceleration of electrons can be controlled by using a second laser pulse6. The collision of the two laser pulses provides a pre-acceleration stage which provokes the injection of electrons into the wakefield. The experimental results show that the electron beams obtained in this manner are collimated (5 mrad divergence), monoenergetic (with energy spread <10 per cent), tuneable (between 15 and 250 MeV) and, most importantly, stable. In addition, the experimental observations are compatible with electron bunch durations shorter than 10 fs. We anticipate that this stable and compact electron source will have a strong impact on applications requiring short bunches, such as the femtolysis of water7, or high stability, such as radiotherapy with high-energy electrons8, 9 or radiography10 for materials science.



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  • Chen Wev .  honorary member of ISSC science council

  • Harton Vladislav Vadim  honorary member of ISSC science council

  • Lichtenstain Alexandr Iosif  honorary member of ISSC science council

  • Novikov Dimirtii Leonid  honorary member of ISSC science council

  • Yakushev Mikhail Vasilii  honorary member of ISSC science council

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