An international research team has used carbon nanotubes to enhance the efficiency of laser acceleration, bringing table-top sources for carbon-ion therapy a step closer to reality. Therapeutic ion beams are currently delivered using large, expensive particle accelerators. Laser-driven ion acceleration may one day provide a compact, cost-effective alternative – but current techniques cannot match the energy and quality of beams created by conventional accelerators.


Freeman carbon


Laser-driven ion acceleration typically works by firing high-intensity laser pulses at ultrathin diamond-like carbon foils. The light pulses strip electrons from atoms in the foil, generating a negatively charged electron plasma. This plasma creates an electric field that then accelerates positively charged carbon ions stripped from the foil.