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Hybrid beam-driven plasma wakefield acceleration for highest brightness beams

Department of Physics

Applications accepted all year round Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

We are on a quest towards ultracompact electron accelerators and 5th generation light sources -- transformative ultrafast microscopes for the 21st century. Motivated and excellent PhD candidates, ideally with a background in lasers, beams and plasmas, are sought after to realize this. Our approach is to combine the best of beam-driven plasma wakefield acceleration (PWFA) and laser wakefield acceleration (LWFA) to generate the highest quality electron bunches ever produced (Manahan, Habib et al., Nature Communications 8, 15705, 2017). These are essential ingredients for highest performance future light sources such as PWFA-based Free-Electron-Lasers. In an international flagship experiment by the E-210 "Trojan Horse" collaboration at Stanford’s SLAC FACET, we have recently succeeded in the first demonstration of a plasma photocathode (Deng, Karger et al., Nature Physics 15, 1156-1160, 2019).

The Trojan Horse plasma photocathode mechanism works as follows: An electron beam drives a plasma wave, and a low energy laser pulse locally ionizes an additional plasma component directly within this plasma wave. The released electrons then form a rapidly accelerating electron beam of ultrahigh brightness, many orders of magnitude brighter than at even the largest and finest conventional linear accelerators such as those used to drive today’s hard x-ray lasers, which each have a price tag of many 100’s of millions. Our approach promises a new generation of machines which are orders of magnitude more compact, cost effective and at the same time produce orders of magnitude better beam quality. This paves the way to realize lab-scale machines with novel game-changing capabilities, e.g. photon sources such as single spike hard x-ray free-electron lasers, gamma-ray sources and other applications in attosecond to femtosecond photonics, as well as for future high energy colliders and high energy physics.

Plasma photocathode PWFA acts as an energy and brightness transformer, where an incoming electron beam is sent into the plasma, and the produced electron beam has substantially increased energy, and dramatically improved brightness. It works with electron beams from linacs, but conceptually also with electron beams from compact laser-plasma-accelerators (LWFA). These beams have high current, which is a primary requisite for driving an attached PWFA stage, but limited beam quality and stability, which makes them particularly interesting candidates to drive Trojan Horse systems. We pursue this approach in a European collaboration [3-7].

After proof-of-concept demonstrations, we are now entering a new exciting phase, with a substantially broadened R&D programme around the E-310 "Trojan Horse-II" flagship at SLAC’s FACET-II facility, complementary experimental programmes at other PWFA-capable linacs in the UK and Europe, and via the hybrid LWFA-->PWFA approach. The R&D programme is supported by a prestigious Consolidator Grant by from the European Research Council "NeXource" from 2020-2025. The experimental programmes are complemented by forward-looking thrusts such as the STFC-funded "PWFA-FEL" project 2019-2023, where we team up with world-leading X-FEL experts to explore the benefits of ultrahigh brightness electron beams for novel ultrahard X-FEL modalities, with a focus on the CLARA linac at Daresbury Laboratory and the SLAC linacs.

The PhD candidate would work in a fundamentally international and multi-disciplinary collaboration around the Scottish Centre for the Application of Plasma-based Accelerators (SCAPA) in Glasgow. SCAPA is located in the heart of Glasgow as flagship of the University of Strathclyde and the Scottish Universities Research Alliance, linked with the UK’s Cockcroft Institute. The student would be part of the Strathclyde Centre for Doctoral Training on Plasma-based Particle and Light Sources (P-PALS, Part of the centre’s approach is to allow PhD students to take up early leadership roles, and as a result in recent years PhD students have been first authors of papers in top-level journals [1,2]. Experimental R&D will be conducted at SCAPA, CLARA and the CLF in the UK, with an international focus on SLAC FACET-II in California, and several laboratories in Europe, e.g. at DESY Hamburg, HZDR Dresden, LMU Munich and LOA Paris, and with our industrial partner RadiaBeam Technologies. Extended placements at these partner laboratories are accessible as part of the PhD work. Next to experiments, we make extensive use of computational tools such as particle-in-cell simulations, which we run on world-leading high-performance computing clusters.

If you are interested in a PhD in this environment, please contact Prof. Bernhard Hidding via email or phone, ideally prior to your formal application to discuss options. We aim for a start of the PhD by October 2020, but are flexible all year around.

Funding Notes

European Research Council Consolidator Grant NeXource View Website 2020-2025
Strathclyde Centre for Doctoral Training P-PALS View Website , with a wide range of opportunities for shorter and longer campaigns and placements at our European and international partners such as SLAC in Stanford, USA, UCLA, Los Angeles, and Helmholtz Centres in Germany in order to carry through R&D within this potentially transformative project and approach
UK STFC PWFA-FEL programme View Website 2019-2023


[1] Single-stage plasma-based correlated energy spread compensation for ultrahigh 6D brightness electron beams, G.G. Manahan, A. Habib .. B. Hidding, Nature Communications 8, 15705 (2017)

[2] Generation and acceleration of electron bunches from a plasma photocathode, A. Deng, O. Karger .. B. Hidding, Nature Physics 15, 1156-1160 (2019)

[3] Monoenergetic Energy Doubling in a Hybrid Laser-Plasma Wakefield Accelerator, B. Hidding et al., Physical Review Letters 104, 195002 (2010)

[4] Direct Observation of Plasma Waves and Dynamics Induced by Laser-Accelerated Electron Beams, Physical Review X 9, 011046 (2019)

[5] Demonstration of a compact plasma accelerator powered by laser-accelerated electron beams, T. Kurz, T. Heinemann et al., arXiv:1909.06676 (2019)

[6] Fundamentals and Applications of Hybrid LWFA-PWFA, B. Hidding et al., Appl. Sci. 2019, 9(13), 2626 (2019)

[7] Directions in particle-beam-driven plasma wakefield acceleration, Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. A Volume 377, Issue 2151 (2019)

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