High energy attosecond electron bunches from the laser-plasma wakefield accelerator (LWFA) are potentially useful sources of ultra-short duration X-rays pulses, which can be used for ultrafast imaging of electron motion in biological and physical systems. Electron injection in the LWFA depends on the plasma density and gradient, and the laser intensity. Recent research has shown that injection of attosecond electron bunches is possible using a short plasma density ramp. For controlled injection it is necessary to keep both the laser intensity and background plasma density constant, but set to just below the threshold for injection. This ensures that injection is only triggered by an imposed density perturbation; the peak density should also not exceed the threshold for injection. A density gradient that only persists over a short range can lead to the injection of femtosecond duration bunches, which are then Lorentz contracted to attoseconds on injection. We consider an example of a sin2 shaped modulation where the gradient varies until the downward slope exceeds the threshold for injection and then reduces subsequently to prevent any further injection. The persistence above the threshold determines the injected bunch length, which can be varied. We consider several designs of plasma media including density perturbations formed by shaped Laval nozzles and present an experimental and theoretical study of the modulated media suitable for producing attosecond-duration electron bunches.
One challenge in X-ray optics is how to focus hard X-rays. The possibility of achieving a wide-range of spot sizes would be an advantage for many applications, such as semiconductor lithography, nuclear fusion diagnostics or focused X-ray beams for cancer therapy. Focused X-rays could deliver precise high doses to tumours while sparing the surrounding tissue. Currently, a promising approach is using a Laue lens. However, they are limited by the diffraction capability of crystals and the complex mm-size arrangement of the optical elements. In addition, they are restricted to sub-MeV photon beams, because for higher energies the Bragg condition is not satisfied. We present an efficient and cost-effective method to extend this range up to tens of MeV using an electron-photon converter in the stream of focused high energy electrons. The emerging X-rays follow the trajectories of the electrons and the focus can be simply adjusted by modifying the focus of the electron beam. A bending magnet can be used to remove electrons, if necessary, however a mixed radiation could be an additional option. Our solution can also be adapted to a multiple beam arrangement as an effective alternative to Gamma Knife without the need for handling radioactive sources.
Here we explore ways of transforming laser radiation into incoherent and coherent electromagnetic radiation using laserdriven plasma waves. We present several examples based on the laser wakefield accelerator (LWFA) and show that the electron beam and radiation from the LWFA has several unique characteristics compared with conventional devices. We show that the energy spread can be much smaller than 1% at 130-150 MeV. This makes LWFAs useful tools for scientists undertaking time resolved probing of matter subject to stimuli. They also make excellent imaging tools. We present experimental evidence that ultra-short XUV pulses, as short as 30 fs, are produced directly from an undulator driven by a LWFA, due to the electron bunches having a duration of a few femtoseconds. By extending the electron energy to 1 GeV, and for 1-2 fs duration pulses of 2 nm radiation peak powers of several MW per pC can be produced. The increased charge at higher electron energies will increase the peak power to GW levels, making the LWFA driven synchrotron an extremely useful source with a spectral range extending into the water window. With the reduction in size afforded by using LWFA driven radiation sources, and with the predicted advances in laser stability and repletion rate, ultra-short pulse radiation sources should become more affordable and widely used, which could change the way science is done.
As an alternative modality to conventional radiotherapy, electrons with energies above 50 MeV penetrate deeply into tissue, where the dose can be absorbed within a tumour volume with a relatively small penumbra. We investigate the physical properties of VHEEs and review the state-of-the-art in treatment planning and dosimetry. We discuss the advantages of using a laser wakefield accelerator (LWFA) and present the characteristic features of the electron bunch produced by the LWFA and compare them with that from a conventional linear accelerator.