Laser-plasma particle acceleration at IGFAE
Laser-plasma acceleration is a promising technology enabling the construction of compact particle accelerators for fundamental and applied research. Ultra-intense ultra-short laser pulses focused in few square microns on a micrometric material layer generate electric fields, thousand times more intense than those produced with radio frequency cavities, where electrons are accelerated at relativistic energies. The electron cloud, leaving the target material, ionizes the atoms at the surface and creates an intense electric gradient where ions are accelerated, in particular the lighter ones, protons.
On top of its intrinsic interest, IGFAE researchers also identified laser-plasma acceleration as an opportunity to transfer the knowledge generated through its participation in large-scale international experiments. Those were the motivations to promote the construction of the Laser Laboratory for Acceleration and Applications (L2A2). This is a research infrastructure at the University of Santiago de Compostela hosting a 50 TW laser system and a radio-protected area for laser-plasma particle acceleration experiments.
The research program led by IGFAE at L2A2 focuses on medical applications of laser-accelerated particles. At present this program concentrates in two initiatives: laser-driven production of radio-isotopes for PET imaging (LaserPET) and new laser-driven X-ray sources and their application in imaging (LaseX).
(More details in igfae.usc.es/laserpet).