What is it about?

Standard ion accelerators are multiple meters to kilometers long and expensive to maintain. By contrast, high-power lasers are much more compact and can accelerate ions on a sub-millimeter scale. In this process, a laser interacts with a 'target' and ions are accelerated from the target material. Historically, the target was destroyed with each laser shot and needed to be replaced in a time consuming process. We show that a liquid water target can be used with a high-power laser to accelerate ions every 2 seconds, dramatically increasing the average number of ions we can produce over a given time period with high-power lasers.

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Why is it important?

Current uses of conventional ion accelerators are limited by their size, cost and need to install measurement setups at a fixed location. If we can use lasers to produce high-energy ions instead, it will become possible to build mobile cancer therapy machines or laser-based systems that used ion beams to generate other particles like neutrons. Beams of neutrons are especially interesting for materials science because they can give information about the composition and layering of different materials that x-rays can't. With a mobile laser-driven neutron source, we could look at the insides of structural materials such as bridge supports to diagnose their integrity without having to cut them open.

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This page is a summary of: High-repetition-rate, multi-MeV deuteron acceleration from converging heavy water microjets at laser intensities of 1021 W/cm2, Applied Physics Letters, August 2022, American Institute of Physics,
DOI: 10.1063/5.0098973.
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