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AWAKE – Plasma Wakefield Acceleration

The AWAKE (Advanced Proton Driven Plasma Wakefield Acceleration Experiment) group at the MPP is investigating a new method to accelerate particles to high energies. The method involves injecting a proton beam into a plasma, i.e. an ionized gas. En route, the protons entrain negatively charged plasma electrons and thus generate a kind of bow wave. If a beam of electrons is injected at a suitable point in time, they are carried along by the wave – just like a surfer riding a wave.

The research seeks to reduce the distance that is required to accelerate particles. The technique is particularly suitable for linear accelerators – and is a lower-cost alternative to the concepts proposed for the International Linear Collider (ILC) or the CERN Compact Linear Collider (CLIC).

Current research

The MPP is currently collaborating with international partners to set up the AWAKE experiment at CERN in order to achieve this objective. The Group is investigating methods that will allow the energy of the proton sources currently available – the LHC, for example – to be used for AWAKE. The aim is for the proton beam to generate charged waves in a plasma over a distance of 10 to 1,000 meters. This will allow electron beams to be accelerated up to the teraelectronvolt energy range (TeV, one million gigaelectronvolts).

A plasma accelerator would then need only 85 centimeters to accelerate electrons to an energy of 50 gigaelectronvolts. The SLAC particle accelerator, an experiment currently underway, needs 3 kilometers for this.

More information on the AWAKE group

News releases

Picture of a proton beam split into smal bunches

Having successfully accelerated electrons riding on a plasma wave, scientists in the AWAKE project continue to study and improve the underlying processes. Over the past few months a great deal of effort has been put into understanding how the 10-centimeter proton beam supplied by CERN’s SPS ring can…

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Illustration of the AWAKE accelerator at CERN: The protons (bullet-like structures) drive a plasma wave (elipsoidal structures) that accelerates electrons to high energies (small spheres).

There is a good chance that soon a new door will open to physicists, offering them new insights into the mysteries of the universe. The international AWAKE collaboration has made a breakthrough in its efforts to build a new type of particle accelerator. The experiment, in which electrons surf on a…

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High electron energies could be achieved with a plasma-based accelerator, currently being developed in the framework of the AWAKE experiment.

What do physicists expect from future colliders? On their wish list, you’ll find not only higher energies, but also more accurate measurements than with instruments in use today. A workshop that takes place on June 1-2, 2017 at the MPI for Physics investigates new concepts.

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A scientist of the Max Planck Institute for Physics working at the AWAKE experiment.

Success reported from the AWAKE project: Researchers have succeeded for the first time in generating a wave-shaped plasma field with the aid of a proton beam – an approach which paves the way for a completely new type of particle accelerator. In the future, the scientists involved plan to accelerate…

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How can accelerator experiments reach ever-higher energies? The AWAKE project uses a completely new technology to increase energies produced in particle accelerators by an order of magnitude. A key component was now put into place at CERN: a ten-meter-long plasma cell developed at the Max Planck…

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Preparations for the new Proton Driven Plasma Wakefield Acceleration Experiment (AWAKE) at CERN have begun. The AWAKE team at the Max Planck Institute for Physics in Munich is preparing to move both equipment and know-how to CERN.

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Group members

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Bachmann, Anna-Maria


Batsch, Fabian


Bergamaschi, Michele

Postdoc 580 237

Caldwell, Allen, Prof. Dr.

Director 529 212

Farmer, John


Hafych, Vasyl

PhD-Student 417 204

Hüther, Mathias

PhD-Student 561 203

Kerscher, Matthias

Student 561 203

Moody, Joshua, Ph.D.

Postdoc 221 201

Morales Guzman, Pablo Israel

PhD-Student 221 201

Muggli, Patric, Dr.

Scientist 580/CERN 237/CERN

Nechaeva, Tatiana


Pucek, Jan


Wacker, Ina

Secretary 207 213

Key publications

Path to AWAKE: Evolution of the concept
A. Caldwell et al.
Science Direct, Volume 829, 1 September 2016, Pages 3–16

AWAKE, The Advanced Proton Driven Plasma Wakefield Acceleration Experiment at CERN
E. Gschwendtner et al.
Science Direct, Volume 829, 1 September 2016, Pages 76–82

Plasma wakefield acceleration with a modulated proton bunch
A. Caldwell et al.,
Phys. Plasmas 18, 103101 (2011)

Proton-driven plasma-wakefield acceleration
Allen Caldwell, Konstantin Lotov, Alexander Pukhov & Frank Simon
Nature Physics 5, 363 - 367 (2009)

Electron trapping and acceleration by the plasma wakefield of a self-modulating proton beam
K. V. Lotov, A. P. Sosedkin, A. V. Petrenko, L. D. Amorim, J. Vieira, R. A. Fonseca, L. O. Silva, E. Gschwendtner and P. Muggli
Phys. Plasmas 21, 123116 (2014)