The next generation accelerator needed to expand the high energy frontier will likely be an electron positron (e+e-) collider capable of producing collisions with a centre-of-mass energy up to the TeV scale. The advantage of e+e- colliders over other colliders is their extreme precision. An accelerator of this type would be able to uncover much of the nature of new particles discovered at the LHC. Using current technology an accelerator capable of producing collisions at the energies needed to discover new science would need to be between 30 to 50 km long. The AWAKE project aims to investigate a new accelerator technology that could reduce the size of the accelerator needed to achieve TeV e+e- collisions by a factor of ten, dramatically reducing its cost.
The AWAKE project at CERN is an international project involving over 20 institutions including a group from the UK, one of the project’s larger groups. Currently in the R&D phase, the project is looking to carry out a proof of principle experiment to validate a proton driven plasma wakefield accelerator. The experiment will use a beam of protons from CERN’s super proton synchrotron (SPS) to create electric wakefields in a plasma, which would accelerate electrons. The UK group is responsible for designing the electron source, carrying out preliminary laser wakefield acceleration experiments to verify the technique, the design of the electron spectrometer and DAQ software, the development of electron and plasma diagnostics techniques and optimisation of the plasma discharge source.