At the Madison AWAKE Prototype (MAP) we develop the physics and technology needed to build the next generation of particle accelerators.
Starting in the 1970’s scientists theorized that plasmas could be used to build a so-called plasma wakefield accelerator (PWA). A PWA would be tens to hundreds of times more powerful than traditional accelerators like the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The CERN-based AWAKE project is aiming to build the world’s first practical wakefield accelerator. Our group contributes to this international effort by building a reliable, scalable, high-density plasma source right here in Madison. We achieve this by creating a plasma inside a vacuum vessel immersed in a magnetic field. To break down and sustain the plasma, we use so called helicon waves which allow us to couple 30 kW of radio frequency (RF) power into our experiment. Our goal is to understand and optimize the helicon plasma for use in AWAKE. To this end we use a wide range of plasma diagnostics, such as interferometry, laser induced fluorescence, Langmuir probes and magnetic probes. In parallel we develop on COMSOL computer simulations to optimize how RF power is coupled into the plasma.