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Next-generation Plasma-based Electron Beam Sources for High-brightness Photon Science

Project description

Accelerating photon science research with a table-top ultrabright electron beam source

Electron accelerators used to produce high-quality photons have advanced tremendously over the last decades. The current fourth-generation photon sources are based on the free-electron laser invented almost a half century ago and produce electron beams in huge (kilometre-scale) state-of-the-art linear accelerators. With each generation has come unprecedented enhancement in brightness and time resolution, fostering an explosion of fundamental research in fields including material science, chemistry, molecular biology and the life sciences. The EU-funded NeXource project is at the pioneering edge of the next-generation, plasma-based electron beam sources for photon science and high-energy physics. Not only will the team’s accelerator have brightness potentially 100 000 times greater than conventional sources, it will be realised in a table-top system accessible to university-scale labs, accelerating research in photon science at lightning speed.


High-quality electron beams are required for advanced light sources and for high energy physics. Engines of discovery such as free-electron-lasers (FELs) and other bright light sources, are driven by electron beams today produced in km-long state-of-the-art linear accelerators (linacs). A complementary alternative are cm-scale plasma-based accelerators, which are feasible in university-lab scale environments. The NeXource project aims at combining key advantages of both types of accelerators to realize hybrid plasma-based accelerators orders of magnitude smaller and at the same time with electron beam quality orders of magnitude better than state-of-the-art. This has far-reaching impact as it will enable the construction of table-top coherent hard x-ray sources with extreme brightness.
This project is motivated by experimental breakthroughs obtained in the E210 collaboration at the linac-driven plasma accelerator facility FACET at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) and by the progress at laser-plasma-accelerator facilities, combined with novel conceptual approaches towards beams with unprecedented 6D-brightness by using tailored beamloading in plasma-based photocathodes.
A dedicated setup for plasma photocathode prototyping and hybrid plasma acceleration will be established at the Scottish Centre for the Application of Plasma-based Accelerators (SCAPA) to develop beam brightness transformers. This R&D will be complemented by campaigns at SLAC, DESY, Daresbury Laboratory and laser-plasma-accelerator labs in Europe. Start-to-end simulations indicate that hard x-ray FEL’s with ultrahigh gain and other advanced light sources can be realised with such electron beams in university-scale labs, which would have transformative impact on photon science and a wide range of natural, life and material science.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 533 849,25
40225 Dusseldorf

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Nordrhein-Westfalen Düsseldorf Düsseldorf, Kreisfreie Stadt
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 533 849,25

Beneficiaries (2)