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Nature. 2004 Sep 30;431(7008):538-41.

High-quality electron beams from a laser wakefield accelerator using plasma-channel guiding.

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Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, 1 Cyclotron Road, Berkeley, California 94720, USA.


Laser-driven accelerators, in which particles are accelerated by the electric field of a plasma wave (the wakefield) driven by an intense laser, have demonstrated accelerating electric fields of hundreds of GV m(-1) (refs 1-3). These fields are thousands of times greater than those achievable in conventional radio-frequency accelerators, spurring interest in laser accelerators as compact next-generation sources of energetic electrons and radiation. To date, however, acceleration distances have been severely limited by the lack of a controllable method for extending the propagation distance of the focused laser pulse. The ensuing short acceleration distance results in low-energy beams with 100 per cent electron energy spread, which limits potential applications. Here we demonstrate a laser accelerator that produces electron beams with an energy spread of a few per cent, low emittance and increased energy (more than 10(9) electrons above 80 MeV). Our technique involves the use of a preformed plasma density channel to guide a relativistically intense laser, resulting in a longer propagation distance. The results open the way for compact and tunable high-brightness sources of electrons and radiation.

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