Covariant analysis of accelerating charged beams and plasmas

Lead Research Organisation: Lancaster University
Department Name: Physics


The aim of the proposed work is to contribute to the development of future high-energy and future low-energy particle accelerators. Considerable success has been enjoyed by high-energy particle physics in helping to explain the fundamental structure of the world around us. However, on-going progress in this field relies on novel particle accelerator development, which itself poses considerable physics and engineering challenges. As particle accelerators become more powerful they also become prohibitively large and expensive. Innovative acceleration schemes are required if ever higher energy experiments are to remain practical. This is clearly illustrated by the 30km long ILC (International Linear Collider), designed on conventional acceleration schemes, and the more radical CLIC (Compact Linear Collider) which promises to achieve particle energies that are three times greater over the same accelerator length. CLIC works by employing two particle beams operating like a transformer. A drive beam composed of long bunches of electrons is accelerated and converted into bunches of much shorter length which are then decelerated to power the main beam accelerator. A sound knowledge of the detailed bunch dynamics during the conversion stage is critical for the success of this novel machine. Lower energy accelerators are one of the components of intense light sources used to study the structure of matter. In conventional free-electron lasers, bunched electrons are accelerated using the electric fields inside radio-frequency microwave cavities and then forced to emit coherent light by injection into an undulator. The cost and size of such light sources, mostly due to the accelerator component, prohibit housing them in university departments and they are only accessible as expensive large shared facilities. However, laser-driven plasma wakefield acceleration is a highly promising alternative acceleration scheme that has seen much experimental success in recent years. This radical approach exploits the huge electric fields created by a laser pulse in a plasma to accelerate electrons in the wake behind the laser pulse. It promises to deliver highly compact ( table-top ) sources of intense electromagnetic pulses of femtosecond duration for probing matter on unprecedented temporal and spatial scales. In the future, university departments could be housing their own light sources based on this concept. However, a number of important issues remain to be resolved because the accelerated electron bunches do not yet satisfy all the stringent criteria needed to produce electromagnetic pulses of the necessary quality. The proposed work centres on the development of new and powerful mathematical models to address fundamental issues in CLIC and laser-driven plasma wakefield acceleration. Both acceleration schemes involve detailed dynamics of collections of interacting charged particles and the proposed work seeks to support their on-going development.


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Burton D (2010) Longitudinal wave-breaking limits in a unified geometric model of relativistic warm plasmas in Journal of Physics A: Mathematical and Theoretical

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Burton D. A. (2009) Discontinuous distributions in thermal plasmas in NUOVO CIMENTO DELLA SOCIETA ITALIANA DI FISICA C-COLLOQUIA ON PHYSICS

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D. A. Burton (Author) (2009) Discontinuous distributions in thermal plasmas in NUOVO CIMENTO DELLA SOCIETA ITALIANA DI FISICA C-GEOPHYSICS AND SPACE PHYSICS

Description Laser-driven plasmas are a key ingredient in major international initiatives to develop the next generation of particle accelerators and to greatly increase the availability of high-brightness particle sources and radiation sources for use by doctors and scientists. The possible applications of such accelerators are numerous, ranging from cancer diagnosis to radiation damage testing in nuclear reactors. An intense laser pulse fired into a plasma forms a wake in the plasma, and the ultra-strong electromagnetic fields in the wake exert forces on charged particles that are several orders of magnitude greater than those achievable using traditional particle acceleration technologies. Thus, the plasma-based wake field accelerator paradigm is notable for the opportunity it offers to radically reduce the size of particle accelerators. Numerous researchers around the world have focussed their attention on uncovering the properties of non-linear wake fields in laser-plasmas and exploring the behaviour of charged particles in the wake.

Most analyses of laser-driven plasmas are based on methodologies developed by the plasma and beam physics communities. Our innovative contribution was to show that there is significant benefit in exploiting analytical tools from gravitational physics and mathematical relativity. In particular, we developed a novel way to analyse the relativistic Vlasov-Maxwell equations used to describe laser-driven plasma wakes that led to new information about the properties of the wake field. Furthermore, in addition to supporting our research programme, the grant helped us to forge new collaborations within the laser-plasma community (allowing us to join major consortial grant bids) and encouraged us to run a conference on the interplay between applied mathematics and plasma physics. The research that we undertook during this period laid the foundation for our current research programme.

One of the articles that we published on this work was highlighted by the journal's Editorial Board for its quality (see J. Phys. A: Math. Theor. 43 075502 in J. Phys. A Highlights of 2010).
Exploitation Route The approach that we developed for analysing the Maxwell-Vlasov system could form the basis of new scientific computation codes for investigating laser-driven plasmas.
Sectors Energy,Healthcare,Security and Diplomacy

Description CRITICAL MASS: Collective radiation-beam-plasma interactions at high intensities
Amount £429,041 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/J018171/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2012 
End 04/2015