This Miniature Particle Accelerator Powers a Tiny Laser With Huge Promise

Although particle accelerators are crucial in studying the matter in the Universe, the most common ones we see tend to be large instruments that surround cities. Scientists have now created a smaller version of the accelerator to power an advanced laser. This setup could prove just as useful and efficient as its larger counterparts.The accelerator is a plasma wakefield accelerator. It generates intense and short bursts electrons. The laser it powers is known as a free laser (FEL). This laser uses its light to analyze molecules and atoms in extremely high resolution.Although this has been done before, the laser light produced by the laser has not been strong enough to be effective at smaller scales. Researchers were able to confine the setup in small rooms, while amplifying and increasing the intensity of the final electron beam from the laser."We proved the feasibility of a new technical route using the laser electron accelerator with extremely high acceleration capability, and it reduced the facility size from kilometer-level to 12 meters," said Leng Yuxin (Chinese Academy of Sciences).The team faced many challenges in scaling down technology and keeping it practical. For example, they had to reduce the variation in electron energy to 0.5 percent. This required several optimizations that controlled electron acceleration and made it possible to travel smoothly.The electrons are fired through a vacuum pipe, and then through three magnetized undulators. These use their magnetic fields for light production and shake the electrons. The laser beam is generated when the emitted light pushes on the electrons.The undulators can increase the electric field while still maintaining stability. This is why the setup was so compact. This allows particle accelerators to be used in experiments that are conducted within a single space.Wang Wentao from CAS says that FEL's features, such as its super-high resolution rates in time and space, and strong peak brightness, make it possible to achieve three-dimensional, multimodal imaging with matter with extremely high precision.The new setup is smaller than the standard FEL and particle accelerator configurations. It's also more affordable, which opens up many new possibilities, even though the device may not be as powerful as full-scale models.Although getting the FEL and the particle accelerator ready for lab experiments will take more time and research, the scientists have demonstrated what is possible when scaling down the entire system.While there are still questions about whether the small accelerator/laser will be able to match the larger versions' results, experts praise the progress of the new research. There could be many more exciting discoveries.Wentao says, "The potential technology will greatly expand the human's understanding about the mystery of life"Nature published the research.