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New laser physics achieves energy at astronomical levels

News: Jul 01, 2019

An illustration of the extremely powerful light source.

With the help of extremely strong light pulses, photons with huge amounts of energy can be released. This paves the way for brand new types of experiments. A group of physicists from the University of Gothenburg and Chalmers have simulated laser configurations that could bring space phenomena into the lab.

“Through simulations, we have investigated an extreme type of collision, where particles collide with very strong light. To achieve this, we use incredibly strong laser pulses and electrons with high energy,” says Mattias Marklund, Professor of Physics at the University of Gothenburg.

The research group also includes Arkady Gonoskov, Assistant Professor at the Department of Physics, University of Gothenburg and Joel Magnusson, PhD-student at Chalmers Department of Physics.
“What’s new about our results is that we have created an optimal configuration of laser pulses, where the laser energy is focused on an extremely small surface. This means that you get as much light as possible in the focus point,” says Joel Magnusson.

The goal of creating such a forceful collision between laser pulses and electrons is to create photons (light particles) with as high energy as possible. If the research group's theories and simulations are successfully recreated in a lab, it would mean that researchers now have access to light with extremely high energy, known as gamma rays, at a level that has not previously been available. A photon produced according to the proposed experiment would have more than one billion times the energy of visible light.
“Through this discovery, new areas of physics can be reached, realms of physics that have previously not been available to study. Eventually, we hope that our models will be tested in the newly built ELI laboratory in Prague. The next step will then be to identify how to utilize these new opportunities,” says Arkady Gonoskov.

The amounts of energy that the proposed experiment would give access to can be compared to the levels found in heavy atomic nuclei – or in astronomical phenomena that have so far only been observed with telescopes.
“A possible use for these findings is in laboratory astrophysics. The technique could recreate astrophysical conditions in a controlled laboratory environment. This would bring the physics of the stars down to earth,” says Mattias Marklund.

The results are published in Physical Review Letters. The research has been done in collaboration with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) in California, USA, ELI Beamlines in Prague, Czech Republic and Kansai Photon Science Institute in Kyoto, Japan.

Photo: (left to right) Arkady Gonoskov, Mattias Marklund and Joel Magnusson by Carolina Svensson
Illustration: An illustration of the extremely powerful light source by Joel Magnusson

Link to the article

Contact info:

Mattias Marklund
+46 (0)31 786 9127

Arkady Gonoskov

Joel Magnusson
+46 (0)31 772 3708



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