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CERN’s AWAKE Project Aims to Validate Principle of Proton Beam-Driven Plasma Wakefield Accelerator

AWAKE is CERN’s latest project for novel accelerators. It aims to conduct a first test experiment to validate the principle behind proton beam-driven plasma wakefield accelerators.

To study matter’s structure in various spatial and temporal scales, the tools readily available are high-energy particle beams with extreme luminosities and ultra-bright beams of energetic radiation.

Progress in the field of advanced radio-frequency based accelerators was made over the last century. Though large-scale research infrastructures are needed to obtain the maximum beam energies, such as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, Switzerland.

The AWAKE project’s experiment will utilize a Super Proton Synchrotron’s (SPS) 450 GeV beam to drive a wakefield in a plasma cell of around 10 m in length with a witness bunch of 10 MeV electrons behind it. The concept can be verified if an electron energy change of roughly 1GeV is observed, so far the concept has only been investigated in simulation.

Allen Caldwell was the first to suggest this new concept, and today it is being researched by an international team. The UK Scientists are actively involved through the AWAKE-UK partnership, working on simulations, realization of the actual experiment, and beam diagnostics research and development.

If all of AWAKE’s collaborative efforts are successful, then it is possible that the size and even costs of existing accelerators can be brought down significantly.

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