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FLASHForward to the future – Helmholtz Virtual Institute

At the beginning of July 2013, the Helmholtz Virtual Institute (VI) in which JAI is one of the partners, officially started.


This VI is aimed at research on plasma wakefield acceleration of highly relativistic electrons. It brings together the leading accelerator centres to address topics at the forefront of accelerator research.

The VI will enhance the prospects of the field of plasma-based acceleration by building on the pioneering breakthrough results of the partners and on the initial steps that have been taken recently in establishing it as a comprehensive research topic in Hamburg. The activities of the VI will be centred in particular on the FLASHForward plasma acceleration experiment performed at a dedicated beamline at FLASH-2 facility which is now under construction.

The VI will bring together leading accelerator centres and institutes – DESY and University of Hamburg, Germany, Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory (LBNL) and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (SLAC), USA, and John Adams Institute for Accelerator Science (JAI), UK. The European centre for particles physics CERN, and the Max-Planck-Institute in Munich (Heisenberg Institute) will be associated institutes in the programme of the VI. Two more groups have joined the VI as associate members since the original proposal, namely the groups from INFN at Frascati National Laboratories and the UCLA group in the United States.

The VI was initiated by the award to Prof Brian Foster (the first Director and still a member of JAI) of an Alexander von Humboldt Professorship at DESY and the University of Hamburg in summer 2011. A significant fraction of the resources of the Humboldt chair will be devoted to research areas contributing directly to the VI, which will bring together many of the world’s leading laboratories in the area of laser-plasma acceleration.

The Helmholtz VI award will enable us to undertake an exciting 5-years experimental programme benefiting from unique facilities at the partner labs, particularly DESY, and also LBNL and SLAC, as well as from pioneering expertise in lasers and plasma acceleration of the University of Hamburg and John Adams Institute, to make significant progress in the task of accelerating bunches of particles with good beam quality to high energies.

The picture collage shows construction progress of the FLASH-2 facility, and the layout of the planned plasma acceleration FLASHForward experiment.