Laser Induced Beams of Radiation and their Applications (LIBRA

Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Department Name: Sch of Mathematics and Physics

Abstract

Recent experiments have demonstrated that by shining powerful laser beams on small physical targets (e.g. metals, plastics or liquids), intense energetic beams of ionizing radiation (e.g. beams of ions, protons, neutrons, electrons, gamma and x-rays) are produced. The type of radiation emitted depends on the dimensions and composition of the targets; these factors also determine the unique spatial and temporal properties of the radiation sources, which have an extremely small size (of micrometer order - a millionth of a meter) and emit ultra-short radiation bursts (of picosecond duration, i.e. a millionth of a millionth of a second). Development of basic source technology will provide compact and flexible sources with optimal properties for use in industrial and medical context. We identify protons, ions and gamma rays as the products with the highest potential benefit to society, and will concentrate our efforts on developing sources of these radiation types. Applications of this technology are envisaged in the following areas:Medicine - improved cancer treatment using laser-energised protons and ions, at a significantly lower cost than currently achieved and with reduced radiation shielding requirements;radiobiology studies using multiple simultaneous radiations to simulate cosmic ray effects during air and space travelIndustry - in-situ flash radiography, satellite radiation hardness testing, engineering diagnostics, semiconductor production and manufacturing controlScience - opportunities for versatile production of intense, synchronised beams from a robust and compact source, allowing novel experiments requiring simultaneous delivery of different types of radiation (pump-probe experiments).Security - rapid imaging detection of hidden materials/explosives using gamma-ray tomography and activation techniques for rapid chemical analysis.The proposed project aims to develop the relevant technology for high-flux, high-repetition source delivery and characterisation, while achieving the standards of output beam quality and reliability essential for the above applications. These will be achieved via a combination of innovative developments in target production and delivery, detector technology, beam property optimization and control.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The project has been devoted to the development of novel techniques of acceleration of ions based on the use of high power lasers. In parallel, activities have been dedicated to deploying the laser-driven ion beams in innovative applications, and to the development of new technologies (targetry and diagnostics) related to these ion sources. The project has been highly successful and has led to a number of very significant advances in this area, as testified by the large number of high quality publications (~ 70 papers published so far, 15 of which in Physical Review Letters - one of the highest impact physics journals) and invited presentations associated to the project.

A number of acceleration mechanisms have been explored.

In the first approach (Sheath Acceleration, SA) the ions are accelerated by the transient, ultralarge electric field produced at the surfaces of laser-irradiated foils by bursts of laser-energized electrons. The LIBRA project has demonstrated a number of methods by which the properties of the resulting ion beams can be controlled by acting on either the irradiated sample or the laser pulse. Highlights include: demonstration and characterization of ion beam focusing from curved foils; first demonstration of ion energy increase by decreasing the transverse size of the irradiated foil (limited mass targets); control of the beam energy spectrum by shaping the temporal profile of the laser light irradiating the sample.

Highly significant results relate to the investigation of a novel, different approach (Radiation Pressure Acceleration, RPA), in which the ions are pushed forward under the effect of the enormous light pressure carried by an ultraintense laser pulse. This mechanism has been investigated numerically, which has clarified the detailed and complex dynamics of the process, discussed in a number of highly cited publications. The LIBRA consortium has also obtained the first demonstrations of monochromatic ion beams obtained through RPA, employing two complementary approaches (Hole Boring - where the ions have been accelerated in gas media- and Light Sail - where the light pressure is used to propel forward to high energies an ultrathin ion layer). The theoretical predictions and experimental observations indicate routes to increasing the energy of RPA ions to regimes of relevance to cancer therapy or high energy physics applications.

An additional result, of high applicative interest, has been the development of laser-driven sources of high-energy negative ions and neutral atoms, arising, through previously unexplored processes, from the interaction of intense laser pulses with water spray targets.

Among the applications explored, radiography of plasmas employing these beams, a technique pioneered by consortium members, has been refined during the course of the project and applied to obtain world-leading results in the investigation of plasma dynamics on ultrafast timescales, and of phenomena of relevance to astrophysical objects.

The beams have also been applied in innovative radiobiology experiments, to test the biological effects of ultrafast ion energy deposition on cells, of possible relevance to future modes of cancer therapy. Finally, initial results have been obtained in experiments aimed to explore the dynamics of ion damage of materials.
Exploitation Route As discussed above, there are potential applications of laser-driven ion beams in a number of non -academic contexts:

1) Healthcare. Laser-driven ions show potential for future use in cancer therapy and diagnosis. Ion beams from conventional accelerators are already used in this context, but the large size and cost of the installations is preventing their widespread use (e.g. use of ions for cancer therapy in the UK is severely limited at the moment, despite the proven clinical advantages of this approach in a number of cases). If laser acceleration could match in the future the requirements in terms of energy and stability, it could become a competitor technology with potential benefit in terms of cost and installation constraints. Also in the healthcare context, there have been world-wide interruptions in the production of medical isotopes in recent years. Intense proton sources such as now available from high energy lasers may provide an alternative route of isotope production which could, in due course, be very compact and cost-effective.

2) Industrial applications. Laser-driven sources are highly versatile. By changing the irradiated sample, it is possible to change the accelerated species, and we have demonstrated that it is possible to accelerate both negative and positive ions, and even neutrals. This versatility, as the ability of accelerating easily ions to multi-MeV energies, may be of relevance to a range of manufacturing/industrial activities, such as ion lithography and ion implantation. Laser-ion sources offer also unique capabilities for testing the resilience of materials under intense ion bombardment, and for investigating the fundamental processes taking place during the ion interaction with substrates of relevance to manufacturing. Some of the technical developments achieved during the project may also find application in an industrial/manufacturing context: for example the development of electrostatic/electromagnetic levitators and propellers for target injection may find application in sensor technology. Techniques for mass production of micro-disk targets based on silicon etching have also potential for wide use in a large number of contexts.

3) Energy. Application in this context mainly relates to use in Thermonuclear Fusion. Laser-driven ions have been proposed as the trigger to start fusion ignition in a compressed fusion fuel, in the so-called Fast Ignition approach, but they can also be used to diagnose the compression process, or to achieve information on several aspects of the laser-driven Inertial Confinement Fusion approach. As mentioned earlier, there may be also a role to play for laser-driven ions in diagnosing plasmas inside the tokamaks used in magnetic confinement fusion (the approach brought forward by the ITER project) and for investigating the resilience of materials to be used as vessels to contain the fuel of future fusion plants. Thanks to the ultralarge accelerating fields that can be obtained, techniques based on high power lasers can in future lead to a reduction in size and cost of large-scale accelerators, and therefore facilitate broad use of high-energy accelerators in science, medicine and technology. In particular, there is scope for exploring the potential of laser-driven ion sources for medical applications such as cancer therapy and diagnosis. Proposed designs based on laser-driven sources may lead to advantages also in terms of reduction of shielding and ion beam transport requirements, reducing for example the size of the size of the gantries, enormous magnetic systems used to stir the beam around the patient. At present, innovative programmes of radiobiology at dose rates never expolored before, have been facilitated by the ultrashort, laser driven ion sources.

Bright beams of energetic ions may find application in industrial context, as sources for ion implantation and lithography. Thanks to the large numbers of ions produced during a single laser irradiation, laser-driven sources can allow testing proton damage of semiconductors, simulating conditions encountered in satellites exposed to protons from solar events. Ion damage of materials at high flux is also of relevance to the design of future nuclear plants based on thermonuclear fusion.

In a fusion energy context, beams of high energy negative ions and neutrals are also of potential use for diagnosing conditions in the interior of the large vessels (tokamaks) containing the fusion plasmas in the magnetic confinement approach.

Use of the ion beams in radiography is already exploiting the unique properties of the beams (particularly ultrashort duration and excellent spatial emission quality) for obtaining novel information of the dynamics of large electric and magnetic fields associated to plasma phenomena - providing in this way data of great importance to activities aimed to achieve thermonuclear fusion, or to investigate, in the laboratory, phenomena of astrophysical relevance.

The beams of ions produced by lasers are also already employed to produce, by heating secondary samples, novel states of matter at solid density, at temperatures in excess of 100,000 K , the so called Warm Dense Matter regime, which is studied for its relevance to conditions in the core of planets, and in compressed thermonuclear fusion fuel.
Sectors Energy,Healthcare

 
Description The development of laser-driven ion sources towards societal application is still ongoing, and possibly a long term task. This is the main aim of the A-SAIL project (EP/K022415/1) which is continuing and refining the work carried out during this award. Several of the developments and findings of the research supported by this award have been taken up and applied (in a research context) by groups worldwide, and have informed (together with the results of other projects worldwide) ongoing EU-wide developments such as the ELI Beamlines initiative, where laser-driven ion beams will be provided to non-academic users. The skills and expertise acquired by staff at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory while developing innovative targetry solutions for our project (particularly the MEMS targetry(, have been a key factor behind the subsequent development of a spin-out from RAL, SciTech precision which now sells advanced targetry to customers worldwide. Significant impact has been realized through training of the PDRA and students involved in the project, which now cover important roles in higher education and research, and provide important contributions to society through teaching and scientific leadership . Some notable examples: Dr. Kar (PDRA at QUB on this award) is now employed as a lecturer at QUB; Dr. Willingale (PDRA at IC on this award) is now a Senior Lecturer at Lancaster University; Dr. Carroll (PDRA at Strathclyde) is now a Target Area Scientist at Central Laser Facility (RAL), Dr. Merchant (PDRA at Surrey) is now a lecturer at Manchester University, Dr. Ter-Avetisyan (PDRA at QUB) is now Group Leader at the CoReLs institute of the Institute of Basic Science (Gwangju) and Professor at the Gwangiu Institute for Science and Technology.
Sector Education,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description Application of Next Generation Accelerators
Amount £1,927,885 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/J500094/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2011 
End 09/2018
 
Description Energy coupling and the onset of QED-radiation damping in ultraintense laser-irradiated solids
Amount £160,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 12110011 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2012 
End 06/2012
 
Description Enhancement of ion acceleration via Debye sheath confinement on reduced mass targets
Amount £45,000 (GBP)
Funding ID LULI100tw001474 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 02/2009 
End 03/2009
 
Description Enhancement of ion acceleration via Debye sheath confinement on reduced mass targets
Amount £45,000 (GBP)
Funding ID LULI100tw001474 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 02/2009 
End 03/2009
 
Description Facility Access: Fusion-Neutron Source employing Laser Radiation Pressure Driven Ions
Amount £300,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 1210010 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2012 
End 09/2012
 
Description Faclity access: Collisionless shock waves in rarefied, magnetized media
Amount £200,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 12110019 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2012 
End 10/2012
 
Description High energy negative ion beams from ultra-intense laser-plasma accelerator (MBI001668)
Amount € 60,000 (EUR)
Funding ID MBI001668 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 04/2011 
End 04/2011
 
Description High energy negative ion beams from ultra-intense laser-plasma accelerator (MBI001668)
Amount £60,000 (GBP)
Funding ID MBI001668 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 07/2011 
End 08/2011
 
Description High energy negative ion beams from ultra-intense laser-plasma accelerator (MBI001799)
Amount £80,000 (GBP)
Funding ID MBI001799 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 07/2011 
End 08/2012
 
Description High energy negative ion beams from ultra-intense laser-plasma accelerator (MBI001799)
Amount £80,000 (GBP)
Funding ID MBI001799 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 11/2011 
End 01/2012
 
Description ION ACCELERATION FROM LIMITED MASS TARGETS
Amount £45,000 (GBP)
Funding ID luli100tw001395 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 07/2008 
End 08/2008
 
Description ION ACCELERATION FROM LIMITED MASS TARGETS
Amount £45,000 (GBP)
Funding ID luli100tw001395 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 07/2008 
End 08/2008
 
Description Interaction of Petawatt laser pulses with ultrathin foil targets
Amount £270,000 (GBP)
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2010 
End 11/2010
 
Description Investigation of radiation pressure effects during laser-driven ion acceleration from thin foils
Amount £270,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 101016 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2010 
End 11/2010
 
Description Ion acceleration driven by ultra-short, ultra-intense pulses
Amount £128,389 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/F021968/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2008 
End 04/2012
 
Description Ion acceleration driven by ultra-short, ultra-intense pulses
Amount £520,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 81025 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2009 
End 06/2009
 
Description Ion acceleration from ultrathin foils
Amount £360,000 (GBP)
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2009 
End 12/2009
 
Description Ion acceleration in the ultraintense regime: radiation pressure mechanisms and ultra-high intensities (a LIBRA Consortium proposal)
Amount £240,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 102030 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2012 
End 03/2012
 
Description Laser-driven ion acoustic solitons in tenuous plasmas
Amount £240,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 92015 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2010 
End 04/2010
 
Description Light sail acceleration with intense subps pulses (a LIBRA consortium proposal)
Amount £360,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 112017 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2012 
End 04/2012
 
Description Multi-PetaWatt Laser-Plasma Interactions: A New Frontier in Physics
Amount £1,330,510 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/J003832/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2012 
End 02/2017
 
Description Next generation laser-driven neutron sources for ultrafast studies
Amount £617,279 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/J002550/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2012 
End 12/2016
 
Description Particle acceleration from a spray target due to interaction of intense laser pulses with high and ultra-high temporal contrast
Amount £65,000 (GBP)
Funding ID mbi001477 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 03/2008 
End 10/2008
 
Description Particle acceleration from a spray target due to interaction of intense laser pulses with high and ultra-high temporal contrast
Amount £65,000 (GBP)
Funding ID mbi001477 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 11/2008 
End 12/2008
 
Description Petawatt Laser Driven Plasma Jets
Amount £360,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 91028 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2009 
End 06/2009
 
Description Plasma dynamics during radiation pressure acceleration
Amount £360,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 112018 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2012 
End 02/2012
 
Description Yotta - exploring routes to the ultimate intensity regime
Amount £1,426,747 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/I029206/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2011 
End 05/2015
 
Description Acceleration of ion beam using ultraintense laser pulses: state of the art and emerging mechanisms, Invited talk by M.Borghesi, 5th International Scientific Spring 2013, Islamabad (Pakistan), 11-15 March 2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Talks stimulated several questions and general interested in the subject

Received invitation to visit institute in Pakistan and request of collaboration
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014
URL http://www.ncp.edu.pk/iss-2013.php
 
Description Accelerazione di ioni con laser di potenza ed applicazioni, invited talk by M. Borghesi, Convegno Prometheus, Bologna (Italy), 9 November 2012 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Talk informed discussion about the possible establishment of a multidisciplinary laboratory for applications of laser-driven ions in Bologna

Establishment of an advisory board for the Prometheus project
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
URL http://www.fisica-astronomia.unibo.it/it/eventi/prometheus-luce-estrema-da-laser-di-potenza
 
Description Current and future ion acceleration mechanisms employing ultraintense lasers, invited talk by M. Borghesi at Channeliing 2012, , Alghero (Italy), September 2012 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Raised awareness of medical applications of laser-driven ions in accelerator community

N/A
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.lnf.infn.it/conference/channeling2012/home.html
 
Description Invited lecture - Laser-driven ion acceleration and applications 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invited lecture at Summer College on Plasma Physics, ICTP, Trieste (Italy), 10-28 August 2009.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
 
Description Invited lecture - Proton radiography: studies of relativistic interactions and nonlinear dynamics 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited Lecture at Summer College on Plasma Physics, ICTP, Trieste (Italy), 10-28 August 2009.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
 
Description Invited talk - Potential and Challenges of Radiation Pressure Acceleration 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Invited talk at Joined IZEST - Helmholtz Beamlines Workshop



23rd-25th April 2012 GSI- Darmstadt, Germany
.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Invited talk - Status and prospects of ion sources driven by ultra intense lasers 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited talk at Compact Accelerators Workshop, Cockroft institute, Daresbury, 18th April 2012.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Present and future applications of laser-accelerated ions, invited talk by M. Borghesi at IZEST meeting, Glasgow, November 2012 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Talk stimulated discussion and interest in the subject

Invitation to present at ICAN meeting
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
URL http://www.izest.polytechnique.edu/izest-home/izest-events/2012-international-endeavor-to-establish-...