is an ERC Consolidator Grant project by Bernhard Hidding at the University of Strathclyde
funded by the European Research Council to develop
Next-generation Plasma-based Electron Beam Sources for High-brightness Photon Science
in Europe and the USA from 2020 to 2025.


Plasma wakefield accelerators produce and harness tens of giga-electron-volt strong electric fields to make particle accelerators 1000x smaller. In addition, these ultrastrong fields can be used to realize plasma photocathodes to generate and compress ultrashort electron beams via the Trojan Horse method. The rapid acceleration suppresses space charge forces and open the novel transformative regime of ultrashort beams with ultralow emittance. These beams are up to 100,000x brighter than conventional sources. The combination of plasma wakefield accelerators and plasma photoguns can therefore will democratize particle accelerators by making them affordable and ubiquitous -- and at the same time to revolutionize them, by enabling hitherto unthinkable applications in particular for photon science: Ultrabright electron beams beget ultrabright photon sources such as X-ray free electron leasers, which are engines of discovery and currently require km-scale accelerator system affordable by only few countries. The 'designer' electron beams NeXource seeks to realize may allow to make snapshots of electronic motion inside atoms on their natural timescale. NeXource will thus transform photon science by making better, brighter and smaller.



NeXource will use various world-leading facilities to put these ideas to test. Guided by theory and simulations, setups and prototypes will be developed at the Scottish Centre for the Application of Plasma-based Accelerators (SCAPA) at the University of Strathclyde. In international collaboration, experiments will be run at SCAPA, at Stanford's Linear Accelerator Centre at the Facility for Advanced Accelerator Experimental Tests (FACET-II), at Daresbury Laboratory's Compact Linear Accelerator for Research and Applications (CLARA), DESY's FLASHForward facility and at various laser-plasma-accelerator laboratories. The results obtained will allow to develop blueprints for installation at accelerators around the world e.g. as brightness boosters and for photon radiation sources.


E-310: Trojan Horse-II at FACET-II

Next to SCAPA, a particular R&D focus will be on FACET-II, where an experimental programme around the E-310: Trojan Horse-II collaboration will attempt to transform the brightness of electron beams by several orders of magnitude. This follows the proof-of-concept demonstration of the feasibility of plasma photocathodes obtained in the E-210: Trojan Horse collaboration, reported in Nature Physics 15, 11, p. 1156 (2019). Further related experiments planned for FACET-II are injection and wakefield physics experiments such as E-311: Plasma Torch Optical Density Downramp Injection, E-312, E-313 and E-314, and experiments which will introduce plasma also as high-precision media for measurement of ultraintense beams such as E-315: Plasma Afterglow Attosecond Metrology and E-316.



Ultrahigh brightness electron beams enable novel regimes of applications, ranging from novel compact light sources for photon science to strong field and high energy physics. For example, brightness and emittance are key performance parameters for X-ray free-electron lasers. Ultrashort, high current electron pulses with normalized emittance of nanometer-radian level, could allow to realize hard x-ray FEL's already at few GeV electron energies. In turn, such ultralow emittance may allow to push towards even harder photon wavelengths. Ultrahigh brightness implies ultrahigh gain, and ultrashort, ultrabright electron pulses may allow generation of single spike, sub-femtosecond coherent X-ray pulses by brute force. This application is being explored in the related forward-looking PWFA-FEL project, funded by the UK STFC 2019-2023.


Further reading

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