Scientists of the LIGHT project succeeded in January 2013 to accelerate protons with a laser beam from the PHELIX laser system and to focus them afterwards in a magnetic field. The experiments lay the foundation for an injection of the laser generated ion beam into conventional accelerator components.
A proton beam generated with a laser stands out due to its short beam pulses of few picoseconds and the large number of accelerated particles. A picosecond is the trillionth part of a second. The short pulses are of interest for researchers in material science and biophysics. They expect materials or cells to behave differently when irradiated by the short intense beams in comparison to the beam impinging over a longer time period. This might open new perspectives for example in tumour therapy with heavy ions.
The next step will be the injection of the protons accelerated by laser into existing conventional accelerator components. For this a high frequency accelerator cavity will be combined with the setup in summer 2013.