Laboratory studies of neutral and collimated electron-positron beams

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

Abstract

Electron-positron pair plasmas (EPPs) represent a unique state of matter, whereby an intrinsic and complete symmetry exists between the negatively charged (matter) and positively charged (anti-matter) particles. EPPs are emitted, in the form of ultra-relativistic winds or collimated jets, by some of the most energetic or powerful objects in the Universe, such as black-holes, pulsars, and quasars. They are frequently associated with violent emission of gamma-rays in the form of short-lived (milliseconds up to a few minutes) bursts, which are amongst the most luminous events ever observed in the Universe. These systems represent a unique astrophysical laboratory, since their immense distance from Earth (some exceeding a billion light years) provides invaluable insight into the Universe at its early stage and allow testing physical models at their very limits.
However, the dynamics of EPPs in the intergalactic medium and, crucially, their radiative properties, are still subject of fervent debate in the community, chiefly due to the fact that our knowledge of them is intrinsically restricted to astrophysical observation and numerical modelling. Precious help would naturally arise from dedicated laboratory experiments, in which the microphysics can be accessed in a reproducible and controllable manner. However, despite dedicated efforts at several leading research institutes worldwide, the generation of a neutral EPP in the laboratory has until recently remained elusive.
Recently, our research group has succeeded in generating a neutral EPP in a fully optical experimental setup, placing our group at the forefront of this research branch. This is an absolute first in the area, despite continued dedicated efforts from other research institutes worldwide. Besides the academic interest, this work has proven to attract significant media attention, as demonstrated by dedicated articles in the New Scientist, CERN Courier, Physics World, and The Conversation, among others.
Our proposed research project is then focused on consolidating our world-leading role in this emerging branch of experimental physics by expanding our experimental investigations of this fascinating state of matter. In particular, we aim at generating, for the first time, a collimated and neutral EPP and study its interaction with a background ionised medium over cm scales. We aim at spatially and temporally characterising instabilities arising during the EPP propagation, from its early stages up to saturation. The extraction of detailed experimental data on the plasma dynamics and subsequent field generation will provide the first laboratory platform for the small-scale study of astrophysical jets and GRB emission, against which numerical models used to interpret astrophysical observations can be compared and refined.

Planned Impact

Our proposed research project is focused on consolidating our world-leading role in an emerging branch of experimental physics: the study of electron-positron pair plasmas in the laboratory. The Principal Investigator has carried out the first pioneering experiments in this area, and seeks to expand these exciting preliminary results into regimes of direct relevance to astrophysics.

The successful completion of this research projects will have ample repercussions for the already high level of scientific research in the UK, since it will highlight our group as world-leaders in the field of plasma physics and laser-based laboratory astrophysics.

The first study of the dynamics of electron-positron plasmas will provide an invaluable set of experimental data that will dramatically advance our understanding of plasma physics and, more in general, of collective systems. Besides, we aim at creating and studying phenomena that are of direct relevance to astrophysics, since they are thought to be at the core of the dynamics of astrophysical jets and the subsequent generation of gamma-ray bursts and acceleration of cosmic particles. Providing a set of experimental data in this area will allow, for the first time, benchmarking and refining numerical and analytical models currently used to interpret astrophysical observations. The proposed research project will then open up a new field of experimental research, namely the study of electron-positron pair plasmas in the laboratory, and it will benefit a wide range of research and academic communities, including plasma physics, astrophysics, and theoretical physics.

Moreover, we envisage that the successful completion of the proposed research project will fascinate also the general audience, improving the general conception of scientific research within the UK and abroad. The interest of the general audience for this subject and, in particular, for the work carried out by the Principal Investigator in this area, is already demonstrated by the significant amount of media coverage that the Principal Investigator has obtained. This includes dedicated articles in the New Scientist, Physics World, and the CERN Courier, together with 3 dedicated articles in the popular science website "The Conversation", which have already been read by more than half a million readers around the world in only five months since their release.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description New insight in the dynamics of anti-matter plasmas, of direct relevance to astrophysics
Exploitation Route New area of research inaugurated.
Sectors Education,Environment

URL http://gianlucasarri.com
 
Description Series of popular science articles and outreach activities, as outlined in the work associated with this grant. 1 PhD awarded
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Environment
Impact Types Cultural

 
Description Building of a national steering committee for research in advanced particle accelerators
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
URL http://pwasc.org.uk
 
Description Consolidated Grant
Amount £2,371,437 (GBP)
Funding ID ST/P000312/1 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2017 
End 01/2020
 
Description E-320 experiment at FACET-II
Amount £54,060 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/T021659/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2020 
End 02/2021
 
Description EPSRC platform grant
Amount £1,389,644 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/P010059/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2017 
End 12/2020
 
Description CEA: LYDIL group 
Organisation Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA)
Country France 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Collaborative experiments: the group provided access to and operation of their high-intensity laser laboratory. We provided man-power and consumables
Collaborator Contribution Collaborative experiments: the group provided access to and operation of their high-intensity laser laboratory. We provided man-power and consumables
Impact collaborative experiment under the ARIES network. Results under analysis and preparation for publication
Start Year 2017
 
Description DESY: novel plasma accelerators 
Organisation Deutsches Electronen-Synchrotron (DESY)
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Currently collaborating on joint experiments (some published) and within the EuPRAXIA consortium for the next-generation of compact particle accelerators
Collaborator Contribution Collaborative experiments
Impact publications and on-going preparation of european large-scale funding proposals
Start Year 2017
 
Description Experimental work: HERCULES 
Organisation Australian National University (ANU)
Department Department of Nuclear Physics
Country Australia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution collaborative experiments
Collaborator Contribution collaborative experiments including the use of their laser laboratory: HERCULES
Impact publication of high profile articles in world-leading journals.
Start Year 2011
 
Description ICL collaboration 
Organisation Imperial College London
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution collaborative experiments
Collaborator Contribution collaborative experiments
Impact publication of high profile articles in world-leading journals
Start Year 2011
 
Description Jena: collaborative QED experiments 
Organisation Friedrich Schiller University Jena (FSU)
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution collaborative experiments in strong-field QED and award of a multi-million grant for experimental campaigns at SLAC
Collaborator Contribution collaborative experiments in strong-field QED and award of a multi-million grant for experimental campaigns at SLAC
Impact joint publications in strong-field QED and award of a multi-million grant for experimental campaigns at SLAC
Start Year 2016
 
Description LUXE: collaboration with DESY and EuXFEL 
Organisation Deutsches Electronen-Synchrotron (DESY)
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaboration to design experiments at the EuXFEL. Current letter of intent published: (https://arxiv.org/abs/1909.00860)
Collaborator Contribution Collaborative work
Impact Publication of a letter of intent: (https://arxiv.org/abs/1909.00860). Current preparation of other two scientific articles
Start Year 2019
 
Description LUXE: collaboration with DESY and EuXFEL 
Organisation European XFEL
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaboration to design experiments at the EuXFEL. Current letter of intent published: (https://arxiv.org/abs/1909.00860)
Collaborator Contribution Collaborative work
Impact Publication of a letter of intent: (https://arxiv.org/abs/1909.00860). Current preparation of other two scientific articles
Start Year 2019
 
Description Princeton: experiments at SLAC 
Organisation Princeton University
Department Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution award of a multi-million grant for collaborative experiments at the Stanford Linear Accelerator
Collaborator Contribution award of a multi-million grant for collaborative experiments at the Stanford Linear Accelerator
Impact award of a multi-million grant for collaborative experiments at the Stanford Linear Accelerator
Start Year 2018
 
Description QED experiments 
Organisation University of Michigan
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaborative experiments
Collaborator Contribution Use of their laser system: HERCULES
Impact DOIs: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.110.255002 10.1088/0741-3335/55/12/124017 10.1103/PhysRevLett.113.224801 10.1038/ncomms7747 10.1063/1.4875336
Start Year 2012
 
Description QED experiments: plasma modelling 
Organisation University of Lisbon
Department Instituto Superior Tecnico
Country Portugal 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution experimental contribution
Collaborator Contribution theoretical contribution
Impact 10.1038/ncomms7747
Start Year 2014
 
Description Stanford: experiments at SLAC FACET-II 
Organisation Stanford University
Department SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution award of a multi-million grant for collaborative experiments at the Stanford Linear Accelerator
Collaborator Contribution award of a multi-million grant for collaborative experiments at the Stanford Linear Accelerator
Impact award of a multi-million grant for collaborative experiments at the Stanford Linear Accelerator
Start Year 2018
 
Description Strathclyde university: collaborative experiments 
Organisation University of Strathclyde
Department Faculty of Science
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaborative experiments and publications
Collaborator Contribution Joint publications
Impact Joint publications and preparation of multi-million european grant within the EuPRAXIA consortium
Start Year 2016
 
Description Theoretical support 
Organisation Max Planck Society
Department Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution carry out experiments in the area
Collaborator Contribution theoretical support and data interpretation
Impact Publication of high profile articles in international scientific papers. Further funding stemmed out of this collaboration. Invitation to international conferences
Start Year 2011
 
Description theoretical support: QED numerical 
Organisation University of York
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Experimental work on high-intensity laser-matter interactions for validating numerical models
Collaborator Contribution Numerical modelling of experiments on high-intensity laser-matter interactions
Impact Ongoing experiments: no publications as yet
Start Year 2015
 
Description ABC 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact live interview with ABC Australia
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description BBC 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact live interview with BBC radio 5
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description New Scientist article 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Popular science article on my research published in the magazine New Scientist
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23631530-400-how-a-fiery-matterantimatter-union-may-lead-to-l...
 
Description New Scientist article 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Popular science article published in the magazine New Scientist
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23748-tabletop-accelerator-shoots-cheap-antimatter-bullets/
 
Description Popular science article in Conversation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Article published in the Conversation, attracting 40,000 readers. Reposted by IFL, BBC news, Daily Mail, Belfast LIVE.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://theconversation.com/how-we-created-a-mini-gamma-ray-burst-in-the-lab-for-the-first-time-8993...
 
Description Talk for the Pint of Science festival (2018) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Public talk during the Pint of Science national event
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://pintofscience.co.uk/event/give-me-an-atom-and-i-will-move-the-world-technology-for-our-futur...