|Simulation of a laser pulse that's created a plasma aperture in a thin foil. (Courtesy: Bruno Gonzalez-Izquierdo et al/Nature Communications)|
Topics: Laser, Optical Physics, Plasma Physics, Research
The quality of laser-accelerated proton beams can be improved by controlling the polarization of the incident laser light, researchers in the UK have discovered. The finding could help physicists to create compact sources of proton beams for use in medicine, lithography or even astrophysics.
Beams of protons and other positive ions have a wide range of applications, including particle physics, materials processing and medicine. Proton-beam therapy, for example, is used to destroy some cancerous tumours with a minimum of collateral damage to surrounding healthy tissue. However, the practical use of proton and ion beams is held back by the need for large and expensive particle accelerators to generate high-quality beams.
One way forward is laser-plasma acceleration, in which a high-power laser pulse is fired into a target. This creates a plasma in which the electrons separate from the ions. This creates huge electric fields that are capable of accelerating protons, ions and electrons to very high energies.
Physics World: Laser polarization boosts quality of proton beams, Tim Wogan