Berkeley Lab

The kBELLA Initiative

kBELLA is a shovel-ready laser initiative that will secure US leadership in advanced particle accelerators, and enable applications in physics, materials, and biomedical science, via a new class of kHz ultrafast pulse lasers.

Computer-aided design rendering of kBELLA in Building 71 at LBNL

Roadmap to laser leadership: computer-aided design rendering of kBELLA in Building 71 at LBNL.

Leveraging existing deep investment by the US Department of Energy, particle accelerators are engines for scientific discovery and are important tools in industry, security and medicine. (Two minute video backgrounder: Excellence in Accelerators)

At Berkeley Lab, we have developed a new class of particle accelerators that use high power lasers to accelerate particles. These new accelerators are much more compact and lower cost than accelerators used today.

This is exciting because our compact laser driven accelerators change what is possible and can drive important new science discoveries and applications, from high energy particle colliders to cargo inspection and biomedical research.

kBELLA will secure US leadership in science and technology areas of high strategic importance — intense lasers and compact particle accelerators — in the face of intense international competition.

We are now ready to bring this new approach to fruition with kBELLA, where we will increase the average beam power nearly 100-fold.

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kBELLA is an initiative for a facility to perform research on precision laser-plasma accelerators (LPAs) for future particle colliders and a broad range of applications (from basic science to such uses as medicine and security) relevant to several offices within the DOE Office of Science and other agencies. Physically, it constitutes an extension of the Berkeley Lab Laser Accelerator Center facility, including the construction of shielded laboratory space at LBNL and of a high repetition rate (kHz), 3-joule short-pulse laser.

LPAs require high peak power to drive the plasma wakefields for acceleration. The lasers required for GeV-class LPAs, which permits accurate scaling to collider-relevant stages and enables photon sources, presently operate at the Hz level. Developing GeV laser-plasma accelerators to kHz repetition rates is now critical for two reasons: because a future high energy physics collider and nearer-term societal applications demand this rate, and because air and ground motion at of the order of 100 Hz generate fluctuations that limit the precision of current systems.

Studies on low-energy lasers show that kHz systems with active feedback are therefore required to advance laser-plasma accelerator technology, opening a new era of precision timing and alignment, taking advantage of machine learning methods. Such a system, generating GeV-class LPA beams, will enable the next step in higher performance required for applications of this technology. This is a major milestone on the US plasma accelerator roadmap, and timely execution is critical to retain US leadership within a highly competitive international environment.

A Discovery Science Platform from the Outset

A first Virtual Town Hall on Science with kBELLA was held 1-3 pm Wednesday, July 15, 2020, so that the LBNL community could provide their input and vision on the breadth of science that can be done with this facility.