November 3, 2009--An international team of physicists at Los Alamos National Laboratory has succeeded in using intense laser light to accelerate protons to energies never before achieved. Using this technique, scientists can now accelerate particles to extremely high velocities that would otherwise only be possible using large accelerator facilities. Physicists around the world are examining laser particle acceleration and laser produced radiation for future uses in cancer treatment (see also "Michigan group achieves laser intensity record" and "FEMTOSECOND LASERS: Full speed--and power--ahead").
Experiments by Sandrine Gaillard, performed as part of her doctoral thesis which is supervised by Prof. Cowan, director of the Institute of Radiation Physics at the Forschungszentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (FZD), achieved world-record energies for laser accelerated particles. These record results were obtained in partnership with scientists at FZD, Sandia National Laboratories, the University of Nevada, Reno, and the University of Missouri, Columbia, all working at the Trident Laser Facility at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Protons were accelerated to velocities of 254 million miles per hour (or 37% of the speed of light).
The new record was achieved using specially shaped targets at the high-intensity, high-enery Trident laser. The scientists shot high-contrast ultrashort laser pulses lasting approximately 600 femtoseconds (600 quadrillionths of a second) and around 80 Joules directly into the cone-shaped structures, whose flat-top tips are covered with a thin film with surfaces created using nanotechnology and produced by the company Nanolabz.
The record measurements will be presented at the annual APS Division of Plasma Physics meeting in November 2009 in Atlanta, GA.
For the full story, click here.