A study led by researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and the University of California, Los Angeles has demonstrated a new, efficient way to accelerate positrons, the antimatter opposites of electrons.
The method may help boost the energy and shrink the size of future linear particle colliders – powerful accelerators that could be used to unravel the properties of nature’s fundamental building blocks.
For positrons – the other required particle ingredient for electron-positron colliders – plasma wakefield acceleration is much more challenging.
“Our key breakthrough was to find a new regime that lets us accelerate positrons in plasmas efficiently,” said study co-author Chandrashekhar Joshi from UCLA. Instead of using two separate particle bunches – one to create a wake and the other to surf it – the team discovered that a single positron bunch can interact with the plasma in such a way that the front of it generates a wake that both accelerates and focuses its trailing end.
Although plasma-based particle colliders will not be built in the near future, the method could be used to upgrade existing accelerators much sooner. “It’s conceivable to boost the performance of linear accelerators by adding a very short plasma accelerator at the end,” Corde said.
More information: Multi-gigaelectronvolt acceleration of positrons in a self-loaded plasma wakefield, Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature14890.