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Higher energies for laser-accelerated particles possible
Date:7/2/2012

The use of compact laser accelerators for cancer therapy with charged particles such as protons could become possible in the future if scientists succeed in generating protons with very high energies. Physicists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) directed the light of the high power laser DRACO perpendicularly and obliquely onto a thin metal foil; thus, permitting them to demonstrate for the first time that accelerated protons follow the direction of the laser light. By incorporating this new data into a conventional model describing the laser particle acceleration, high proton energies which have not been realized so far might become achievable. The results have been published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

The intense and ultra-short light pulses of the high power laser DRACO can be thought of as disks of about 10 centimeters in diameter and being as thin as a normal sheet of paper. If one of these disks of light is focused onto a thin metal foil, the extreme high electric and magnetic forces will pull negatively charged electrons out of the foil. These electrons will then accelerate positively charged protons away from the foil's surface. To date, many experts have thought that commercially available laser systems would not be suitable for future cancer therapy applications because they have such short laser pulses, and the energy which is achieved by the accelerated protons is correspondingly too low. The results published by the HZDR group demonstrate for the first time that proton energies needed for cancer therapy could, in principle, also be generated from such a short pulse laser. This prospect motivated the Dresden researchers to study the particle acceleration process very closely.

New Two-Phase Model for Laser Accelerated Particles

A light pulse coming from the DRACO laser and directed perpendicular onto a thin metal foil accelerates electrons, and thus also protons, perpe
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Contact: Anja Weigl
a.weigl@hzdr.de
49-351-260-2452
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert  

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