Indexed on: 28 Sep '10Published on: 28 Sep '10Published in: Physical review letters
An analytical model for the self-modulation instability of a long relativistic proton bunch propagating in uniform plasmas is developed. The self-modulated proton bunch resonantly excites a large amplitude plasma wave (wakefield), which can be used for acceleration of plasma electrons. Analytical expressions for the linear growth rates and the number of exponentiations are given. We use full three-dimensional particle-in-cell (PIC) simulations to study the beam self-modulation and transition to the nonlinear stage. It is shown that the self-modulation of the proton bunch competes with the hosing instability which tends to destroy the plasma wave. A method is proposed and studied through PIC simulations to circumvent this problem, which relies on the seeding of the self-modulation instability in the bunch.