to produce a compact X-ray and gamma-ray radiation source
a light pulse from a table-top, high-power, femtosecond laser
system (high-spec but commerically available all the same).
Femtosecond laser beam
the laser pulse into a capillary channel containing plasma (a
fully ionised gas) that's some centimetres long and less than
a millimetre wide.
Miniature electron accelerator
now obtained a high energy bunch of electrons.
High energy means high energy - the
electrons are travelling at virtually the speed of light. They
are produced by a very compact device: the laser-plasma wakefield
accelerator. Conventional accelerators use microwave cavities
which require vastly larger infrastructure to achieve the same
To produce short wavelength radiation pulses (e.g. ultraviolet
light, X-rays or gamma-rays) the electrons are forced to wiggle
very rapidly. This is can done using an array of magnets called
an undulator or, to make it even more compact, using the electromagnetic
fields of the plasma itself. This wiggling motion produces synchrotron
radiation or betatron radiation
- tunable from the visible to gamma-rays.
steps to producing short pulses of radiation which could be powerful
tools for scientists, the medical world and engineers. Their availability
could revolutionise the way science is done - because they are
very compact and relatively inexpensive.
compact radiation light source
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