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€ 3.2 Million for Expansion of Jülich Short-Pulse Photon Center JuSPARC

Jülich, 25 June 2018 – Forschungszentrum Jülich has been awarded € 3.2 million for the expansion of its short pulse photon centre JuSPARC (Jülich Short-Pulsed Particle Acceleration and Radiation Center). JuSPARC will offer novel opportunities to study ultra-fast physical phenomena, which are of special interest to the field of information technology as well as to solid state and energy research. The expansion plans will take place under the umbrella of the new research and development platform for accelerator technology ATHENA (Accelerator Technology HElmholtz iNfrAstructure), whose funding was approved by the Helmholtz Association (HGF) on 12 June.

The six HGF research centres involved in accelerator technology research have joined forces to develop compact plasma accelerators for scientific use as cost-effective alternatives to expensive large-scale research facilities. Together, the Helmholtz Centres aim to establish two German flagship projects based on innovative, plasma-based particle accelerators and cutting-edge laser technology: an electron accelerator facility at DESY in Hamburg, and a hadron accelerator facility at the Helmholtz-Zentrum in Dresden-Rossendorf. JuSPARC will take over some of the necessary development work, and will make application-ready developments from the flagship projects available for research at Forschungszentrum Jülich.

To start with, JuSPARC will be equipped with two high-performance lasers in August, in its first, long-envisaged expansion stage. The aim here is to generate as many photon pulses per second as possible. Photons are light or X-ray particles.

A laser from the French company Thales with a pulse power in the terawatt range produces extremely short light pulses lasting less than 30 femtoseconds. One femtosecond is a millionth of a billionth of a second. The intensity of the pulses is comparable to all the sun’s light being shone onto an area the size of the tip of a pencil. In this way, X-ray pulses are produced of a similar intensity to those generated at conventional synchrotron large-scale research centres with the help of conversion targets. A second laser from the Fraunhofer spin-off company AMPHOS achieves a particularly high repetition rate of 10 million ultra-short laser pulses per second, making it possible to carry out element-specific studies of electron dynamics in solid bodies.

JuSPARC is to be further developed within the framework of ATHENA in order to achieve an even higher level of photon energy. Firstly, this requires electrons to be accelerated using the intensive laser pulse from the first development phase. The highly energetic electrons can then emit photons up to the keV energy range – similar to those typically produced at synchrotrons.

In the long term, plans are also being made to accelerate hadrons, such as protons, and in particular to produce polarized particle beams with lasers for the first time, in order to open up further opportunities for basic research in particle physics. To this end, within the framework of the ATHENA project, researchers and engineers at the Peter Grünberg Institute and the Nuclear Physics Institute aim to work together closely to develop novel polarized targets, from which polarized beams can be accelerated using intensive laser pulses.

How a laser accelerator works:

In order to produce a particle beam, a laser is shot onto a thin film or in a gas jet. The high energy causes the electrons that strike the laser pulse to detach from the atomic nuclei. Between the positively-charged atomic core and the underlying negatively-charged electron cloud, an electromagnetic field is formed. This field is around a million times more powerful than a conventional particle accelerator and therefore capable of accelerating the atom nuclei over an extremely short range.

Weitere Informationen:

Project JuSPARC on the Peter Grünberg Institute website – Electronic Properties (PGI-6)

German press release / Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY)


Prof. Dr. Markus Büscher
Peter Grünberg Institute – Electronic Properties (PGI-6)
Tel. +49 2461 61-6669

Press contact:

Angela Wenzik, Science journalist
Forschungszentrum Jülich
Tel: +49 2461 61-6048