Smaller, flexible and economic accelerators will allow to strengthen basic research with potential impacts on many applications, from cancer therapy to the protection of cultural heritage
After five years of work, ENSURE, a ERC H2020 project financed by the European Commission has reached its main objective: to control and optimize a non-conventional technique of acceleration of particles irradiating nanostructured materials with innovative properties using super-intense and ultra-short laser pulses.
High energy particle beams are used in basic research but have different applications: they are used in cancer therapies, in some diagnostics in medicine or in the production of semi-conductor, also in the field of cultural heritage, for example to determine the composition of a picture thanks to the analysis of the components of its materials. High energy particle beams are obtained through accelerators, which have some constraints of cost and dimension.
The research team of ENSURE, led by professor Matteo Passoni (full professor of Physics Of Matter of the Department of Energy) has developed a new method of particles acceleration that uses the interaction of a a laser impulse of great power and ultra-short (up to 1020 W/cm2 in a few tens femtoseconds) and a specific kind of nanofoams, developed by the team that has a density between a solid material and a gas one (we have talked about this topic in the 5th number of the MAP, that you can read at this link https://alumni.polimi.it/magazine/?magazine=2141).
The approach tackled by Passoni will allow to create Smaller, flexible and economic accelerators with reduced costs of construction and radioprotection. The results were published in the paper “Integrated quantitative PIXE analysis and EDX spectroscopy using a laser-driven particle source” on Science Advances magazine (https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/7/3/eabc8660).
Together with the research results, ENSURE has allowed to Politecnico di Milano to create two new labs that host the state-of-the-art scientific instruments that allow to produce non-conventional materials needed in creating irradiated targets.
“Research on acceleration that we pursued, both in theory and in practice has had positive outcomes. We have produced materials with peculiar qualities, such as nano-structured carbon foams of super low density, that make the acceleration process more efficient and we have proven that results are better by investing not only on the laser but also on irritated materials, a technological and economical solution. Lastly we have started the sperimentation on some important application of the technology, with promising results” says Matteo Passoni. “In the last few years some Italian researcher have had the opportunity to work with me at Politecnico and the research work has had important collaboration with excellent industrial, research and academic realities at the national and international level.