AWAKE’s plasma cell arrives at its destination

By harnessing the power of wakefields generated by a proton beam in a plasma cell, the AWAKE project aims to produce accelerator gradients hundreds of times higher than those achieved in current machines. Far from being just a dream, the AWAKE tunnel is progressively being filled with its vital components. This week, the plasma cell has been moved to its final position.


AWAKE's 10-metre-long plasma cell in the experiment tunnel.

The proof-of-principle AWAKE experiment is being installed in the tunnel previously used by the CNGS facility. In AWAKE, a beam of protons from the SPS will be travelling through a plasma cell and will generate a wakefield that, in turn, will accelerate an electron beam. A laser will ionise the gas in the plasma cell and seed the self-modulation instability that will trigger the wakefield in the plasma. The project aims to prove that the plasma wakefield can be driven with protons and that its acceleration will be extremely powerful, hundreds of times more powerful than that achieved today.

On Thursday, 11 February, the plasma cell – a 10-metre-long component developed by the Max Planck Institute for Physics in Munich– was lowered into the tunnel and moved to its position at the end of the proton line. The next step will be the installation of the laser, the vacuum equipment and the diagnostic system for both laser and proton beams. Beam commissioning is scheduled to start this summer.

by Antonella Del Rosso