The International Coherent Amplification Network [ICAN] held a two-day symposium on new fibre laser-based accelerator concepts at CERN from 27 to 28 June 2013. The symposium assembled a wide range of scientists ranging from particle physicists to telecommunications engineers to explore how a new architecture of high intensity lasers could contribute to the next generation of particle accelerators.
The idea behind the use of lasers for particle acceleration exploits the fact that ultrashort laser pulses can generate electric field intensities sufficient to drive plasma wakefield dynamics which can accelerate electrons to giga-electronvolt [GeV] energies over distances of just a few centimetres. This suggests that in principle, laser-based schemes could offer a complementary technological approach to future high-energy particle accelerators.
The particular goal of the ICAN consortium is to use optical fibre lasers to overcome the barriers of low repetition rate and poor energy efficiency, which currently limit the use of lasers as a practical accelerator technology. The new technology architecture proposed by ICAN replaces the conventional monolithic single rod laser amplifier by a coherently combined network of fibre amplifiers and telecommunication components. The numbers are impressive, with preliminary proof of concept suggesting that thousands of fibre lasers can be controlled to provide a laser output powerful enough to accelerate electrons to energies of several GeV at 10kHz repetition rate. An important foundation of the project that allows the combination of such a large number of lasers to be envisaged is the transfer of reliability and systems concepts from the telecommunications industry.
The ICAN consortium feasibility study was supported under the European Framework Programme 7, with the four major partners being the Ecole Polytechnique (France), the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering and the Institute of Applied Physics of Friedrich-Schiller University in Jena (Germany), the ORC at the University of Southampton (United Kingdom) and CERN. The consortium used the two-day workshop held in June as an opportunity to discuss the status of the research project in the context of preparing the groundwork for a HORIZON 2020 proposal.