About the Project

Recent experiments have demonstrated that by shining powerful laser beams on small physical targets (e.g. metals, plastics or liquids), intense energetic beams of ionizing radiation (e.g. beams of ions, protons, neutrons, electrons, gamma and x-rays) are produced. The type of radiation emitted depends on the dimensions and composition of the targets; these factors also determine the unique spatial and temporal properties of the radiation sources, which have an extremely small size (of micrometer order - a millionth of a meter) and emit ultra-short radiation bursts (of picosecond duration, i.e. a millionth of a millionth of a second). Development of basic source technology will provide compact and flexible sources with optimal properties for use in industrial and medical context. We identify protons, ions and gamma rays as the products with the highest potential benefit to society, and will concentrate our efforts on developing sources of these radiation types.

Laser matter interaction

Applications of this technology are envisaged in the following areas:

  • Medicine - improved cancer treatment using laser-energised protons and ions, at a significantly lower cost than currently achieved and with reduced radiation shielding requirements.
  • Radiobiology studies using multiple simultaneous radiations to simulate cosmic ray effects during air and space travel Industry - in-situ flash radiography, satellite radiation hardness testing, engineering diagnostics
  • Semiconductor production and manufacturing control Science - opportunities for versatile production of intense, synchronised beams from a robust and compact source, allowing novel experiments requiring simultaneous delivery of different types of radiation (pump-probe experiments).
  • Security - rapid imaging detection of hidden materials/explosives using gamma-ray tomography and activation techniques for rapid chemical analysis.

The proposed project aims to develop the relevant technology for high-flux, high-repetition source delivery and characterisation, while achieving the standards of output beam quality and reliability essential for the above applications. These will be achieved via a combination of innovative developments in target production and delivery, detector technology, beam property optimization and control.

PROGRAMME AND METHODOLOGY

The aim of this proposal is to develop the basic technology required to enable the generation of laser energised radiation sources with unique and optimised  properties  and  high  repetition  rates.  This  will  require  technological  development  regarding  targets,  delivery systems, interaction environment, and detectors. By applying this improved technology, we aim to demonstrate optimized source  properties  and  carry  out  preliminary application  tests.  Each of  these  tasks will be divided in a number of  Work Packages.  Coordination of the Work Packages will be through a project management committee formed from the project partners. To produce an integrated radiation sources the consortium will fabricate an interaction vessel where all the elements of the proposal can be individually tested and then combined together. This vessel and the associated diagnostics will be transferred  to  the  institutions  of  the  consortium  as  required  for  periods  of  between  4-6  months  for radiation source properties demonstrations  and  initial  tests  of  medical/biological  interest.  Low-medium  energy  and  integration  tests  will  be conducted using the TOPS and TARANIS laser systems at Strathclyde and Belfast, respectively, and high energy tests will be conducted by using the Gemini system at RAL (commissioned late 2008).  

SPECIFIC OBJECTIVES :

•      To  develop  extensive  new  target  technology  to  facilitate  >  1  Hz  laser  interactions  for  the  production  of  beams  of high-energy ions, protons and ?-rays from the same laser system.

•      To develop  the necessary interaction and shielding systems for debris free laser-target  interactions that are able to cope with a > 1 Hz rate operation (gas load, debris etc).

•      To  experimentally  and  theoretically  optimize  new  and  novel  target  materials,  constructions,  shapes,  techniques, processes etc, using existing systems supported by state-of-the-art modelling, to tailor the properties of these beams.

•      To develop new, novel and comprehensive diagnostics that are capable of 10 Hz operation to measure the parameters of interest for each type of particle beam.

•      To demonstrate particle source properties suitable for use in scientific, technological or medical applications.

•      To demonstrate the suitability of ions sources for medical applications via biological and dose deposition tests.