All-optical density downramp injection in electron-driven plasma wakefield accelerators

Ullmann, D. and Scherkl, P. and Knetsch, A. and Heinemann, T. and Sutherland, A. and Habib, A. F. and Karger, O. S. and Beaton, A. and Manahan, G. G. and Deng, A. and Andonian, G. and Litos, M. D. and OShea, B. D. and Bruhwiler, D. L. and Cary, J. R. and Hogan, M. J. and Yakimenko, V. and Rosenzweig, J. B. and Hidding, B. (2020) All-optical density downramp injection in electron-driven plasma wakefield accelerators. Working paper., Ithaca, N.Y..

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    Injection of well-defined, high-quality electron populations into plasma waves is a key challenge of plasma wakefield accelerators. Here, we report on the first experimental demonstration of plasma density downramp injection in an electron-driven plasma wakefield accelerator, which can be controlled and tuned in all-optical fashion by mJ-level laser pulses. The laser pulse is directed across the path of the plasma wave before its arrival, where it generates a local plasma density spike in addition to the background plasma by tunnelling ionization of a high ionization threshold gas component. This density spike distorts the plasma wave during the density downramp, causing plasma electrons to be injected into the plasma wave. By tuning the laser pulse energy and shape, highly flexible plasma density spike profiles can be designed, enabling dark current free, versatile production of high-quality electron beams. This in turn permits creation of unique injected beam configurations such as counter-oscillating twin beamlets.