Étudiant-chercheur étoile August 2014

Vincent Marceau

PhD student in Physics
Université Laval

Award-winning publication: Femtosecond 240-keV Electron Pulses from Direct Laser Acceleration in a Low-Density Gas

Published in: Physical Review Letters, 111, 224801, 11-2013



"Highly focused, high-power laser pulses generate electromagnetic fields of tremendous amplitude, which may be used to accelerate electrons to high energies over a very short distance. With very realistic numerical simulations, we demonstrated that it was possible to accelerate femtosecond (10-15 second) electron pulses by focusing a laser pulse in a low-density gas. We also established that these electron pulses possess the properties required for use in a technique to provide real-time images of atomic motion. Our work could therefore lead to the development of an instrument to observe physical phenomena at unprecedented spatial and temporal resolutions."

The use of lasers in accelerator physics is promising since it could considerably reduce the size and cost of standard accelerators. The laser acceleration technique described by Vincent Marceau generates electron pulses that are probes and which uniquely combine the spatial and temporal resolutions. It may be possible to capitalize on these electrons to observe the structures of different viruses and proteins at the atomic scale. The control and use of these biological agents often depend on detailed knowledge of their configurations, and laser accelerators therefore constitute critical imaging tools in the biology, health and materials science sectors.