CERN Accelerating science

FP7 CESSAMag: building industrial relations with SESAME members
By Jean-Pierre Koutchouk & Livia Lapadatescu (CERN)

The goal of SESAME is to join forces in the Middle East and beyond, to build a synchrotron light source of excellence, attracting scientists from the region, including those already working at other such facilities in the world. In line with this international endeavour, the CERN engineers involved in the FP7 CESSAMag project in support of SESAME considered the possibility of procuring some components from companies based in the SESAME Members. Having extensive experience in carrying out quality control when buying from industry, CERN could take the challenge of procuring from companies without former accelerator experience, by providing appropriate knowledge transfer.

CESSAMag magnets being installed at SESAME. (Image credit: SESAME)

Identifying potential companies from SESAME members was, however, a challenge. In Cyprus, for example, a company was found through the Chamber of Commerce, while a Turkish company was identified at an industrial fair. Both companies had no previous experience in producing accelerator components, but, after an assessment, were found to have the potential to do it. By placing a pilot order first, CERN could test the components and ensure that they were produced at the highest standards for SESAME (all the components, in particular the magnets, were highly customized for SESAME, as is the case for most accelerators, and were not off the shelf products). In the end, the Turkish company built the quadrupole coils, while the Cyprus company assembled half of the sextupoles (33 magnets). The assembly of the other half was donated by Pakistan, who sent an expression of interest to assemble the sextupoles against a knowledge transfer from CERN. Except for the dipole, “the power supplies of the quadrupoles and sextupoles were bought from a well-established power supply company from Israel.

Another challenge in this industrial endeavour was the logistics behind the shipping of the various components, involving in particular maritime transport – to Pakistan, Cyprus and Jordan. Besides a proper conditioning of the crates to avoid damages, the various transit times, including customs clearance, had to be properly considered to meet the overall schedule.

Map of CESSAMag partners

Along with the industrial return for companies themselves (some of them now interested to participate in call for tenders with CERN or to continue producing accelerator components), the members involved have also welcomed the industrial collaboration with CERN.

The strategy chosen by CESSAMag to build industrial ties with SESAME members, in addition to purchasing accelerator components from experienced companies in Europe is yet another example of science diplomacy advanced by the project.  

 By Eleonora Getsova (HEPTech)

Cryogenics has widely contributed to the recent major successes of High-Energy Physics (HEP). And conversely, HEP has pushed cryogenic engineering developments to a high level of technical excellence. The third European Cryogenics days, hosted by CERN on 9th and 10th June 2016, were focused on the latest developments in Cryogenics and laid grounds for further cooperation between academia and industry in this field.

Organizer of the event that brought together 176 participants, mostly from Europe, was the Cryogenics Society of Europe together with the High-Energy Physics Technology Transfer Network (HEPTech) and CERN, in partnership with the Enterprise Europe Network.

The forum explored topics relating to large cryogenic systems for HEP accelerators and detectors, instrumentation for cryogenic systems, research in the cryogenic field revealing  examples of fundamental and applied projects, and future of cryogenics – covering developments in HEP, cryotherapy and space applications.

The talks dedicated to cryogenics for accelerators and detectors gave an overview of the structure of and experience with the cryogenic systems of the Large Hadron Collider (CERN), Wendelstein-7X stellarator (Max Planck Institute of Plasma Physics), the European X-ray Free Electron Laser (DESY, Germany) and the U.S. ITER central solenoid module, and highlighted problems and solutions relating to their installation, commissioning and operation. Lessons learnt from ATLAS and CMS – the two detectors of the LHC machine that use dedicated cryogenic equipment – addressed the most noticeable shortfalls, including oil contamination, experienced with each of them as well as the remedy modifications realized.  Cryogenics of the European Spallation Source (ESS) target was explored and it was pointed out that the integrated moderator/hydrogen/helium system is currently being implemented.

Industry introduced novel membrane cryostats for large volume neutrino detectors to be used by CERN to detect interactions between neutrinos and argon atoms.

What makes cryogenic helium so beneficial in turbulence studies and what is the price to pay on the instrumentation side? These issues were the essence of a presentation on the GreC experiment showing preliminary results obtained. The experiment is hosted in SM I8, the CERN main cryogenic test facility, and is probing ultra high-intensity turbulence.

Both academia and industry presented latest developments in the cryogenic instrumentation, such as usage of superconducting devices for metrology and general instrumentation, optical fiber sensors for cryogenic applications, Coulomb Blockade Thermometer as a primary device for sub-kelvin measurements, specifics of the cryogenic instrumentation at CERN depending on the availability of radiation, and application of the Pressure Equipment Directive (PED) on the design codes for cryogenic equipment.

An overview of the research in the cryogenic field covered current research topics at the CERN’s Cryolab in the field of He II, such as heat transport studies in confined superconducting Rutherford cable geometries, options to localize a Quench spot at superconducting radio-frequency cavity surfaces as well as visualized effects of He II heat transfer mechanisms. Different material property test stands and cryocooler based zero boil off cryostat solutions were also discussed. Results of studies of the heat transfer at a sapphire – indium interface in the 30 mK – 300 mK temperature range were presented as well as examples of extreme conditions sample environment used in ISIS neutron scattering experiments at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (STFC), including ultra-low temperatures, high magnetic fields, high pressure and cryogenic environment for soft matter samples. Current experimental and theoretical work on cryogenic safety was also explored.

Future cryogenic applications addressing both needs of the fundamental research and applied science were discussed in the second day of the event. HEP research efforts will be concentrated on the development of dedicated cryogenic systems for the High-Luminosity LHC, under construction at CERN, and the Future Circular Collider (FCC), under study. It is clear already that the FCC cryogenic system will require cryoplants far beyond the present state-of-the-art with unit capacities of 100 kW at 4.5 K equivalent including 12 kW at 1.9 K.

Exposition of parts of the human body or the whole human body to cryogenic temperatures and the implying effects are in the core of the advanced cryogenic applications for medical purposes, health and well-being. Identification and development of enabling technologies for re-ignitable cryogenic upper-stages of future rocket launchers will be a breakthrough in usage of cryogenics for space applications at the European Space Agency.

Participants enjoyed the visits of the cryogenic systems at LHC point 1.8, the upper 18 kW cold-box and its corresponding compressor station as well as two 125 m3 liquid helium storage tanks, the CERN Large Magnet Facility, and the Central Cryogenic Laboratory where they had a look at normal helium in a glass cryostat being brought to its superfluid state and explored the Superconducting Cable Test Facility.

The event was accompanied with an industrial exhibition and bilateral brokerage meetings to enable the contacts and future cooperation between the representatives of academia and industry who valued the forum as a major step forward to strengthening of the European cryogenic community. The brokerage event was organized by Enterprise Europe Network, and is part of every European Cryogenics days.

FP7 CESSAMag and science diplomacy
By Jennifer Toes & Livia Lapadatescu (CERN)

Visit to CERN by Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation (Image: CERN)

The CESSAMag project has achieved key milestones this year, with the delivery of the magnets and power converters for the SESAME synchrotron light source in Jordan and the support for the installation and alignment of the first cell (consisting of magnets, vacuum chamber and a girder) in its final position (see video below). 

Installation of SESAME’s Storage Ring Begins (Video: SESAME)

The installation of the first storage ring cell in February of this year heralds more than simply the next stage of construction in this scientific project. Indeed, SESAME will be the Middle East’s first major international research centre, and is the result of collaboration between its nine members in the Middle East and neighbouring countries on the model of CERN.

The road to a first international major scientific infrastructure serving the scientists of the region is a challenge, especially for researchers and institutions based in regions affected by particular political and cultural tensions. Several synchrotron laboratories in the world, international organizations and learned societies have given support to the SESAME members for this venture. FP7 CESSAMag is specific in that it combines science and diplomacy with the participation of CERN and the European Commission.

As part of the CESSAMag project, the dipoles, quadrupoles and sextupoles for SESAME were produced in Spain, UK, Cyprus and Pakistan. Switzerland, Italy and Israel provided the controllers and power supplies, while the coils for quadrupoles and sextupoles were produced in Turkey and France. This large participation, including companies in SESAME members, was allowed by ordering parts for the quadrupoles and sextupoles, rather than complete magnets. The coordination was provided by CERN experienced engineers, and led to outstanding products.

Fostering further science diplomacy, CERN also welcomed engineers and technicians from Iran, Jordan, Pakistan and Turkey to work on the design, production and testing of the power supplies, power supply racks and magnets assembly as part of the CESSAMag project.

Originally from Turkey, Evrim Onur Ari came to CERN as an Electronics Engineer in 2014 to work as part of the Storage Ring Magnet Power Supplies Team.

“I really got excited when I learned the details of it” says Onur Ari, explaining why the project appealed to him. “[It is] a science collaboration between countries which were counted as political rivals. The biggest motivation behind this collaboration was peace.”

This sentiment was shared by Ehsan Yousefi, an Electronics Engineer and Head of the Power Supply group at the Iranian Light Source Facility (ILSF) who came to CERN for seven months in 2015:

“Besides scientific achievements and improving skills in power supply design, I could learn how to live abroad, face new challenges and experience a different lifestyle where different cultures are respectful towards one another.”

Iranian researchers in particular have felt the impact of the sanctions against Iran. Javad Rahighi, Professor of Experimental Physics and Director of the ILSF commented “On the example of CESSAMag, we would like to see SESAME and other collaborations utilising the expertise already existing in Iran."

Indeed, science diplomacy not only hopes to foster peace between nations, but provide the conditions to facilitate the flow of skills and information between them.

“Being involved in this project gave me a general view about specifications and design of dedicated power supplies” said Ehsan, noting his experience may now be utilised in his work at the ILSF.

In addition, Azhar Nawaz, a Mechanical Engineer working in Pakistan, notes that his company’s experience of manufacturing magnets for SESAME has given them the experience to participate in future CERN tenders and other projects.

Of course, due to the nature of science diplomacy the potential challenges for researchers extend beyond the technical. Whilst Azhar Nawaz states that assembling the sextupole magnets was a “very challenging job as magnet manufacturing was a new field” for his team, Evrim Onur Ari notes a further challenge of working internationally due to differing cultural practices: “Sunday is counted as a part of weekdays in Jordan, whereas it is a part of the weekend in European countries; the reverse is true for Friday. We had effectively four days in common during the week." 

Indeed, whilst many international collaborations must overcome the impact of time zones, differences in the working week of different countries pose a further hurdle still, as despite both teams working full time, the potential days for collaboration are reduced. 

The FP7 CESSAMag project has been acknowledged by the SESAME Council as a major influencing factor to its continued progression, and hopefully will be one of many efforts in the name of science diplomacy that allow excellence in physics and peace to go hand in hand.

 LINAC4 ready to go up in energy
By Jennifer Toes (CERN)

The DTL section of the LINAC4 (Image: CERN)

The LINAC4 linear accelerator has recently achieved beam commissioning of 50MeV and is now almost ready for the next step of increasing the beam energy even further up to 100MeV. This project is part of the LHC Injectors Upgrade (LIU) required for the needs of the High Luminosity LHC (HL-LHC).

LINAC4 aims to replace the ageing LINAC2 linear accelerator, going from the  present 50 MeV proton beam injection into the Proton Synchrotron Booster (PSB), the first ring in the CERN accelerator chain, to a modern H- ion beam injection at 160 MeV, more the three times the Linac2 energy.

“CERN is one of the few laboratories in the world that has not yet implemented H- injection” said Alessandra Lombardi, who is responsible for the beam commissioning of the LINAC4. Injecting H- at a higher energy results in a smaller emittance in the PSB.

Following the successful commissioning of the three newly designed Drift Tube Linac (DTL) tanks in November 2015, the team began its preparations for the installation of two key accelerating sectors: the Cell Coupled Drift Tube Linac (CCDTL) and PI-Mode Structures (PIMS).

Built in Russia by a collaboration of CERN with two Russian laboratories, VNIITF in Snezinsk and BINP in Novossibirsk, the CCDTL is the next structure to be conditioned and commissioned with beam in the LINAC4.

“The CERN CCDTL is composed of 7 modules of 3 tanklets each and it brings the energy of the beam from 50 to 100MeV” said Lombardi.

The main advantage of CCDTLs over standard DTLs is that their quadrupoles are external and therefore more accessible. The accessibility of these magnets makes the construction and alignment process much more straight forward.

The PIMS was constructed as part of a CERN-Poland (NCBJ Swierk) collaboration with contributions from FZ Jülich (Germany). The PIMS was assembled and tuned at CERN will bring up the beam energy from 100MeV to its final goal of 160MeV. It is composed of 12 modules for a total length of about 25m.

Currently, the installation and conditioning of all CCDTL tanks and of the first PIMS is being carried out before beam commissioning begins on April 11th 2016. The commissioning of the remaining PIMS tanks expected to follow in October will allow reaching the final beam energy.

Scheduled to become operational by 2020, the LINAC4 is a crucial step towards the increase in the LHC luminosity that will allow CERN to remain at the pinnacle of high energy physics research.


ICTR-PHE2016: Accelerators for health
by Manjit Dosanjh & Panos Charitos (CERN)

The third International Conference on Translational Research in Radio-Oncology and Physics for Health (ICTR-PHE) was held in Geneva over the 15-19th February providing a unique place for international researchers to share knowledge and build bridges between disciplines. Over 400 participants from across the world met during the five days of the conference before returning to their home institutes with new ideas, collaboration prospects, and optimistic visions of the future of cancer therapy.

A large spectrum of topics were covered across the conference, from radiobiology, nuclear medicine, detectors and imaging, and accelerators and medical treatment, in addition to the presentations of new research by attendees.

Bleddyn Jones and Jens Overgaard chaired a session dedicated to the OPENMED project, which aims at establishing an open-access facility for biomedical research based on the existing LEIR (Low Energy Ion Ring) at CERN. Ghislain Roy and Mike Waligorski stressed the need for a facility able to provide particle beams of different types and energies to external users for radiobiology, fragmentation studies and detector development with access to sufficient amount of beam time.

Hadron therapy facilities were also discussed with a number of speakers covering developments from around the world. Thomas DeLaney, presented the case of the Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston where a cyclotron of 230 MeV has treated more than 8350 patients over its 15 years of operation. Johanna Salinger discussed the current status of MedAustron in Wiener Neustadt in Austria; the fourth dual ion hadron therapy facility in Europe that is about to start treatment with a horizontal proton beam. It is worth noting that soon MedAustron also expects to start treating patients with carbon ions. Finally, Zhen Zhang from China presented the very first dual ion hadron therapy centre in China built by Siemens at the Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Centre  that opened in May 2015. Participants also discussed the optimisation of treatment planning and delivery with the protection of normal tissues during x-ray- and hadron- therapy being one of the top priorities.

Finally, the last morning of the conference featured presentations on the MEDICIS and PROMED programmes, MEDICIS-Produced Radioisotope Beams for Medicine. The PROMED project officially started in April 2015 and just concluded its kick-off week at CERN. Johanna Pitters, one of the 15 young researchers recruited for the project, and John Prior, from the CHUV Hospital of Lausanne, explained the main goals. MEDICIS plans to use radioactive ion beams of CERN’s ISOLDE facility to produce specific ions to be used in innovative radiopharmaceuticals or to perform hadron therapy treatments.

ICTR-PHE also featured the work of many younger researchers: more than 100 of them presented their latest research in the poster sessions.

Finally, in line with its goal of merging different approaches and disciplines, the conference was host to a public talk titled “Sound for Health – from Astronomy to Biomedical Sciences: Music and Sound as Tools for Scientific Investigation” by Domenico Vicinanza and Genevieve Williams, from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge.

For further information of the 2016 ICTR-PHE presentations, please refer to the ICTR-PHE blog.

Watch the video and find out more

  Large private investment to boost “Accelerator on a chip”
  By Peter Hommelhoff (FAU), Rasmus Ischebeck (PSI) and Lenny Rivkin (EPFL, PSI)

Electrons are accelerated by the laser field above the accelerator-on-a-chip. The teeth of the grating are on the sub-micron scale, which requires the electron beam to be controlled on these length scales too. This novel concept could enable the construction of miniaturized accelerators, with applications in numerous scientific field. Credits: J. Breuer, FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg

The “Accelerator on a chip” project has received a huge boost thanks to a $13.5 million investment granted by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation ( By bringing together international experts in the field of accelerator physics, laser physics, nanophotonics and nanofabrication, the project team aims to develop the next generation of compact laser-driven accelerators the size of which do not exceed a shoebox. In this framework, a fully functional and scalable working prototype of the “accelerator on a chip” will be finalized within the next five years. 

 The international effort to demonstrate a working prototype of an accelerator is based on the potential for shrinking a laser-driven particle accelerator with the hope of building smaller and cheaper accelerators. First publications appeared in Physical Review Letters and Nature in September and November 2013 respectively.

The new technology, which uses commercial ultrafast lasers, contributes to overcome two major challenges for the international scientific community.  By providing more compact particle and photon sources and miniaturizing the acceleration process, it addresses current infrastructure challenges. Initial demonstrations of the technology achieved an acceleration gradient of 300 million electronvolts per meter – 10 times higher than the acceleration provided, for example, by the current SLAC linear accelerator. Secondly, the low-cost production techniques make it possible to expand the use and application to broader fields and communities, maximizing its impact. “The impact of shrinking accelerators can be compared to the evolution of computers that once occupied entire rooms and now can be worn around your wrist. This advance means we may be able to expand particle acceleration into areas and communities that previously had no access to such resources,” said Dr. Peter Hommelhoff, Professor of physics at Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg (FAU) and co-principal investigator on the project. To learn more about the technology and physics behind the “Accelerator on a chip” project, check out this animation and short video.

The project consortium is led by Stanford University and FAU and includes three national laboratories: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, CA; Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY) in Hamburg, Germany; and the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) in Villigen, Switzerland. It also includes five universities and one industry partner: University of California Los Angeles, Purdue University, University of Hamburg, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) and Technical University of Darmstadt and Tech-X Corporation.

The consortium will perform basic accelerator science and development based on a vacuum scheme driven with laser light. The goal is to demonstrate all components that will be required to build an accelerator based on wholly new technology. Therefore, the consortium covers world-leading experts covering all fields needed for this new technology. For example, nanofabrication of the photonic chip structures will be dealt with in cleanroom laboratories; novel, miniaturized electron sources will be developed, as well as high intensity photonic structures for the laser beam feeding. Available electron beam will be employed to test the structures at high energies, but also to demonstrate novel photon generation schemes.

Building on the first successful experiments performed at Stanford University and at FAU, experts at PSI and EPFL are planning to take research one step further. To achieve the goal, the two institutes will provide the collaboration with access to the newest PSI accelerator, the SwissFEL. SwissFEL is a 700 meter long facility, which is presently being installed in an underground building near PSI. This accelerator has been designed to generate ultra-bright electron beams, where up to one billion electrons are accelerated to almost the speed of light, and can be focused down to a diameter of a few micrometers, i.e. less than the width of a thread from a spider’s web. These beams are ideally suited for the planned research on laser-based acceleration, as they can fit into the chip that is being designed. For this scheme to work for speed-of-light particles, a pair of gratings will be used, one on top and one on the bottom. These high-energy beams will allow probing the physics of acceleration on a chip at higher energies and simultaneously higher particle density. The objective is to accelerate electron packets of higher charge, which would allow extending the suitability of chip-based accelerators to a broad range of applications. 

Read more 1 >>  - Moore Foundation Press Release

Read more 2 >>  - on the Swiss Contribution

Read more 3 >>  - on Dielectric Laser Accelerators (FAU)


  Compact modern accelerators for big science
  By Carsten Welsch(UNILIV)

On 1 November 2015 a new European Design Study called EuPRAXIA (“European Plasma Research Accelerator with eXcellence In Applications”) started. 3 M€ of funding has been awarded to 16 laboratories and universities from 5 EU member states within the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme. They will be joined by 18 associated partners that make additional in-kind contributions.

The goal of this ambitious project is to design accelerator technology, laser systems and feedbacks for improving the quality of plasma-accelerated electron beams. Two user areas will be developed for a novel free-electron laser, for high-energy physics and for other applications. An implementation model will also be proposed, including a comparative study of possible sites in Europe, a cost estimate and a model for distributed construction but installation at one central site.

Novel and small plasma accelerator compared to the FLASH accelerator. Credit: Heiner Müller-Elsner/Desy

EuPRAXIA has a total of 14 work packages that address specific scientific challenges. R&D in eight of them will be directly supported by the design study. This includes extensive simulation studies across the consortium to optimize the plasma, laser and electron beam parameters for both, the plasma injector and the accelerating modules. These investigations will target the achievable beam characteristics, including maximum energy and bunch charge, but also energy spread and transverse emittance of the electron bunches. It is hoped that they will also provide valuable information about acceptable tolerance levels with regards to error sources such as laser intensity and plasma density. Another work package aims at identifying a reliable and stable solution to build the injector and plasma accelerator stages. It will design the plasma structures that are required for both tasks and define optimum regimes of operation. Studies will also include the design of suitable diagnostics required to monitor the shot-to-shot operation of plasma structures and a complete set of instrumentation for the electron injector and laser plasma stage.

EuPRAXIA is the important intermediate step between proof-of-principle experiments and ground-breaking, ultra-compact accelerators for science, industry, medicine or the energy frontier. The design study was endorsed by the European Steering Group on Accelerator R&D (ESGARD) and developed with support from the EuroNNAc network. It aims at establishing a revolutionary design of a plasma-based accelerator with superior beam quality. The study shall help put this new type of particle accelerator on the roadmap for future science facilities with a significantly reduced footprint and hence much lower costs.



  European training network to fight cancer
 By Alexandra Welsch (UNILIV)

The Optimization of Medical Accelerators (OMA) is the aim of a new European Training Network which received a stunning 100% evaluation mark. The project joins universities, research centers and clinical facilities with industry partners to provide an interdisciplinary training to a cohort of early stage researchers.

During the 4 year project duration 15 Fellows will be employed by the network’s 14 beneficiary partners. A similar number of associated partners will complement the interdisciplinary training of the Fellows by contributing to international schools and expert workshops, as well as by offering secondment opportunities. The early stage researchers will carry out studies that are distributed across three scientific work packages. These address the development of beyond state-of-the-art detectors and imaging systems for particle therapy, improved schemes, new technologies and tools for patient treatment, as well as R&D into the improvement of the performance of existing and planned facilities.

Several Fellows will work on the application of detector technologies that were originally developed for high energy physics experiments such as VELO and Medipix for medical applications, whilst others will work on the improvement of the FLUKA code to more adequately represent dose delivery, emission of secondary particles, as well as effects impacting on the beam during irradiation. This shall help making the code more suitable for treatment planning. Facility optimization studies will include for example the development and testing of high gradient structures for hadron therapy.


Treatment room with innovative robotic positioning system at MedAustron/Austria.

The project will be led by Professor Carsten P. Welsch from the Cockcroft Institute/University of Liverpool in the UK. He said: “OMA will push the limits in treatment facility design, imaging techniques and treatment optimization through advanced numerical studies. It brings together a consortium with long-standing expertise in a very important research area that aims at developing advanced treatment schemes to assure the best possible cancer care for patients.” 

The project is currently recruiting for its Fellowship positions that will be based at institutions across Europe. Researchers from around the world are invited to submit their application by 28 February 2016.  Further information on the vacancies available through the project can be found at the OMA website.



  Ultra-short electron beams at ELI-ALPS
 By Patrizio Antici (ELI-ALPS), Livia Lapadatescu (CERN)


Work under way at ELI-ALPS (picture taken in September 2015). Credit: ELI-ALPS

ELI (Extreme Light Infrastructure) is a laser research infrastructure hosting the most intense lasers in the world. The laser intensity foreseen for ELI is about 1023 Watts/cm2 and the ELI lasers will be a factor of 10 above the present state-of-the-art, both in peak power and repetition rate. ELI will ultimately consist of four facilities/pillars:

  1. ELI-Beamlines in Czech Republic
  2. ELI-Attosecond in Hungary
  3. ELI-Nuclear Physics in Romania
  4. ELI-Ultra High Field – location still to be decided

ELI is pursuing novel applications in which it can benefit from the unique properties of their lasers and their secondary sources. In particular, it will be the ideal setting for the development of laser-driven electron diffraction experiments. Electron acceleration is one of the aims of ELI-ALPS (Extreme Light Infrastructure Attosecond Light Pulse Source), the ELI pillar in Hungary.

Conventional accelerators used in electron diffraction can probe matter with a resolution of about a few hundreds of femtoseconds, which limits the exploration of dynamic processes occurring on shorter timescales. Moreover, the synchronisation between the accelerated particles and in case a pump laser, that excites the sample previous to probing it, are in the same order of magnitude, not allowing to make a more precise time reconstruction of physical phenomena. ELI-ALPS is aiming at generating shorter and better synchronized electron bunches and thus probing matter with an enhanced time resolution. This is similar to taking a picture with a camera having a much quicker shutter. Generating the shortest laser-pulses of all the ELI pillars, ELI-ALPS will be able to take very precise (short-time) pictures of atomic structures. This has applications in fields like material sciences, chemistry or biomedical imaging.

One of the challenges of laser-driven electron acceleration is how to control the laser-generated electron beam and how to optimise the particle yield. In order to improve some of its foreseen applications, ELI-ALPS is currently concentrating on how to generate the shortest electron bunches.

Electron acceleration is also studied in other ELI pillars. In contrast to ELI-ALPS, the particle- generating lasers have a longer pulse, contain more energy, and thus can produce higher energy electron beams but with a lower repetition rate. These beams can serve for example as injector for FELs (free electron lasers).

Even though the ELI-ALPS facility is under construction, various preparatory experiments are currently being conducted off-site at other laser facilities. Since the exact ELI-ALPS parameters are not existing elsewhere (either the energy, the short pulse duration, or the repetition rate might not equivalent), these experiments allow only exploring preliminary results, and consent researcher to prepare in advance the foreseen experiments on the ELI-ALPS lasers once these get operational.

ELI-ALPS will be operated partially as a user facility and will be the first to provide ultra-short electron beams. The facility is expected to be fully operational in late 2017. 



 Laser and accelerator communities converge in Mallorca
 by Magdalena Klimontowska (UNILIV), Rob Ashworth (UNILIV) 

 Laser and particle accelerator scientists met in the town of Palmanova, Mallorca in March 2015. These two scientific communities were brought together with renowned speakers invited to lead sessions complemented by contributed talks from delegates. In this way, ideas at the forefront of these two fields were shared. This contributed to advancing knowledge towards the development of more functional and cheaper accelerators with ever more diverse applications from health, industrial processes and security through to fundamental research.

The meeting was held by the EU-funded project LA3NET. This large Marie Curie Initial Training Network is coordinated by the University of Liverpool to train 19 early stage researchers at doctorate level in novel projects relating to the application of lasers at accelerators. These researchers are hosted by research centres, universities and industry partners across Europe with additional training provision from other members of the network’s consortium. 

Dr. Nathalie Lecesne (GANIL) giving a talk about Ion beam and laser beam diagnostics for laser ion sources.   Image credit: LA3NET

The network coordinator Professor Carsten Welsch says: “Europe is investing heavily in world-class research facilities that will offer unprecedented insights into material sciences, nuclear physics and the processes of life itself, but we are not investing in the people we need to exploit these opportunities and already there is a skills shortage.”

The event created an important opportunity for early career researchers to gain from expertise of renowned scientists in the combined fields of laser and accelerators research.

The week was divided into two events with a two-day Beam Diagnostics Workshop followed by a three-day international Conference on Laser Applications at Accelerators.