What is plasma wakefield acceleration? How do you accelerate particles? And why do you want to?

AWAKE accelerates electrons using plasma wakefield acceleration, because this new method of acceleration allows for accelerators that are easily hundred times smaller than machines with conventional acceleration methods. Smaller accelerators are less costly and decreasing sizes make accelerators more easily available wherever they are needed, be it in a doctor's office, a university lab or at CERN.

You can compare electron acceleration at AWAKE with wave surfing on Lake Geneva.

The placid lake is disturbed by a boat passing by, displacing the water and leaving waves in its wake. A surfer behind the boat happily catches a wave and is accelerated by the water flow at the wave's crest.

AWAKE does the same, with the difference that:

  • our "lake" is a 10m-long Rubidium plasma cell,
  • our "boat" are many little boats together, and we call it "drive beam". The drive beam consists of many protons from CERN's SPS accelerator and creates an electrostatic wave in our "lake"
  • our "surfers" are electrons that we send to the "lake" and inject exactly at the crest of the wave. We call the electrons "witness beam" and it contains the accelerated particles.



Do you want to learn more about AWAKE's acceleration and surfing equipment?