Collaborative Research: Graduate Student Training Through Research on Plasma-Based Accelerators (University of California-Los Angeles)
Proton and ion radiotherapy are exciting new options for treating certain types of cancer. However, these therapies can be expensive to provide and require large facilities to accommodate the equipment that produces proton and ion beams.
Now, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), have developed a compact, laser-driven accelerator that produces proton beams for a fraction of the cost of conventional equipment. This discovery could lead to less expensive, yet more effective cancer treatments.
To fulfill the requirements for radiotherapy, a laser-driven plasma accelerator should produce a high-energy proton beam with a narrow energy spread. Researchers at UCLA have demonstrated that laser-driven shock waves in hydrogen plasma can accelerate protons to energies in excess of 20 million electron volts with a 1 percent energy spread. Computer modeling predicts that a shock wave acceleration in plasma can push protons to the 200 million electron volts required for cancer therapy using existing, state-of-the-art lasers. Shock wave acceleration can also be applied to produce heavier ions such as nitrogen and oxygen, benefiting other fields of science and medicine.
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