Indexed on: 18 Feb '06Published on: 18 Feb '06Published in: Philosophical transactions. Series A, Mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences
In this article, we present the underlying physics and the present status of high gradient and high-energy plasma accelerators. With the development of compact short pulse high-brightness lasers and electron and positron beams, new areas of studies for laser/particle beam-matter interactions is opening up. A number of methods are being pursued vigorously to achieve ultra-high-acceleration gradients. These include the plasma beat wave accelerator (PBWA) mechanism which uses conventional long pulse ( approximately 100 ps) modest intensity lasers (I approximately 10(14)-10(16) W cm(-2)), the laser wakefield accelerator (LWFA) which uses the new breed of compact high-brightness lasers (<1 ps) and intensities >10(18) W cm(-2), self-modulated laser wakefield accelerator (SMLWFA) concept which combines elements of stimulated Raman forward scattering (SRFS) and electron acceleration by nonlinear plasma waves excited by relativistic electron and positron bunches the plasma wakefield accelerator. In the ultra-high intensity regime, laser/particle beam-plasma interactions are highly nonlinear and relativistic, leading to new phenomenon such as the plasma wakefield excitation for particle acceleration, relativistic self-focusing and guiding of laser beams, high-harmonic generation, acceleration of electrons, positrons, protons and photons. Fields greater than 1 GV cm(-1) have been generated with monoenergetic particle beams accelerated to about 100 MeV in millimetre distances recorded. Plasma wakefields driven by both electron and positron beams at the Stanford linear accelerator centre (SLAC) facility have accelerated the tail of the beams.