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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Demonstration of a beam loaded nanocoulomb-class laser wakefield accelerator


Laser-plasma wakefield accelerators have seen tremendous progress, now capable of producing quasi-monoenergetic electron beams in the GeV energy range with few-femtoseconds bunch duration. Scaling these accelerators to the nanocoulomb range would yield hundreds of kiloamperes peak current and stimulate the next generation of radiation sources covering high-field THz, high-brightness X-ray and γ-ray sources, compact free-electron lasers and laboratory-size beam-driven plasma accelerators. However, accelerators generating such currents operate in the beam loading regime where the accelerating field is strongly modified by the self-fields of the injected bunch, potentially deteriorating key beam parameters. Here we demonstrate that, if appropriately controlled, the beam loading effect can be employed to improve the accelerator's performance. Self-truncated ionization injection enables loading of unprecedented charges of ∼0.5 nC within a mono-energetic peak. As the energy balance is reached, we show that the accelerator operates at the theoretically predicted optimal loading condition and the final energy spread is minimized.Higher beam quality and stability are desired in laser-plasma accelerators for their applications in compact light sources. Here the authors demonstrate in laser plasma wakefield electron acceleration that the beam loading effect can be employed to improve beam quality by controlling the beam charge.

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