CERN’s AWAKE collaboration achieves acceleration of electrons by a proton driven wave

CERN has reported the first ever successful experiment of acceleration of electrons using a proton driven wave by the collaboration AWAKE.

The Advanced Wakefield Experiment (AWAKE) has successfully used a proton driven wave for the first time ever to accelerate electrons to great energies over a short distance in a compact accelerator.

The acceleration of electrons is an essential experiment used by physicists to investigate laws of physics. While other experiments have previously used electrons or laser in acceleration, AWAKE has accelerated electrons for the first time using protons.

Why has AWAKE used proton driven beams?

Allen Caldwell, the spokesperson of the AWAKE collaboration, said: “Drive beams of protons penetrate deeper into the plasma than drive beams of electrons and lasers…therefore, wakefield accelerators relying on protons for their drive beams can accelerate electrons for a greater distance, consequently allowing them to attain higher energies.”

Other particle accelerators which are considered to be state of art technology are said to have gradients between 30-100 MV/m. The co-ordinator and CERN project leader for AWAKE, Edda Gschwendtner, says, “By accelerating electrons to 2 GeV in just 10 metres, AWAKE has demonstrated ithat it can achieve an average gradient of around 200 MV/m (million volts per metre).”

What is AWAKE aiming to achieve in the near future?

AWAKE is still aiming to accelerate electrons and achieve an average gradient of 1000 mv/m, as well as intending to meet other advantageous requirements relating to the intensity and quality of accelerated beams and the distance over which the acceleration can be sustained. It was only in 2016 when the proton driven wakefield was first observed by CERN so AWAKE has already made quick and valuable progress in experimenting with the acceleration of electrons. CERN has reported that the use of these wakefields is expected to massively reduce the size of accelerators in the next few decades.


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