UCL team develops laser accelerator for neutral particles
23 May 2012
C. Maher-McWilliams, P. Douglas, P. F. Barker
Laser-driven acceleration of neutral particles
Precise control of the motion of atoms and molecules is extremely
difficult, yet important for a large spectrum of scientific and industrial
processes. Applications range from surface growth and deposition, to elucidating
the details of chemical reactions through controlled collisions.
Maher-McWilliams, P. Douglas, P. F. Barker, members of the Atomic, Molecular, Optical and Positron Physics (AMOPP)
group, have recently developed a high-accuracy method that uses strong optical
fields to trap and accelerate particles.
The method produces a beam of particles with a narrow velocity spread, a precisely controlled mean velocity, and sufficient flux over a wide range. Acceleration up to velocities of hundreds of metres per second have been achieved. This acceleration occurs over tens of billionths of a second and over micrometre length scales. The team have shown that particle velocity can be continuously tuned over a wide range while maintaining a narrow velocity spread. Their method is very general and allows acceleration or deceleration of a wide variety of neutral atomic and molecular species as well as nanoscale particles.