Laser-wakefield accelerators for high-resolution X-ray imaging of complex microstructures

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Laser-wakefield accelerators (LWFAs) are high acceleration-gradient plasma-based particle accelerators capable of producing ultra-relativistic electron beams. Within the strong focusing fields of the wakefield, accelerated electrons undergo betatron oscillations, emitting a bright pulse of X-rays with a micrometer-scale source size that may be used for imaging applications. Non-destructive X-ray phase contrast imaging and tomography of heterogeneous materials can provide insight into their processing, structure, and performance. To demonstrate the imaging capability of X-rays from an LWFA we have examined an irregular eutectic in the aluminum-silicon (Al-Si) system. The lamellar spacing of the Al-Si eutectic microstructure is on the order of a few micrometers, thus requiring high spatial resolution. We present comparisons between the sharpness and spatial resolution in phase contrast images of this eutectic alloy obtained via X-ray phase contrast imaging at the Swiss Light Source (SLS) synchrotron and X-ray projection microscopy via an LWFA source. An upper bound on the resolving power of 2.7 ± 0.3 μm of the LWFA source in this experiment was measured. These results indicate that betatron X-rays from laser wakefield acceleration can provide an alternative to conventional synchrotron sources for high resolution imaging of eutectics and, more broadly, complex microstructures.


  • A. E. Hussein
  • N. Senabulya
  • Y. Ma
  • M. J.V. Streeter
  • B. Kettle
  • S. J.D. Dann
  • F. Albert
  • N. Bourgeois
  • S. Cipiccia
  • J. M. Cole
  • O. Finlay
  • E. Gerstmayr
  • I. Gallardo González
  • A. Higginbotham
  • D. A. Jaroszynski
  • K. Falk
  • K. Krushelnick
  • N. Lemos
  • N. C. Lopes
  • C. Lumsdon
  • S. P.D. Mangles
  • Z. Najmudin
  • P. P. Rajeev
  • C. M. Schlepütz
  • M. Shahzad
  • M. Smid
  • R. Spesyvtsev
  • D. R. Symes
  • G. Vieux
  • L. Willingale
  • J. C. Wood
  • A. J. Shahani
  • A. G.R. Thomas
External organisations
  • University of Michigan
  • Lancaster University
  • Imperial College London
  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
  • Rutherford Appleton Laboratory
  • Diamond Light Source
  • University of York
  • University of Strathclyde
  • Institute of Physics of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic
  • Paul Scherrer Institute
  • The Cockcroft Institute
  • University of Lisbon
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Atom and Molecular Physics and Optics
Original languageEnglish
Article number3249
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Mar 1
Publication categoryResearch