Researchers use accelerators to coax the electron into performing a wide range of tricks to enable medical tests and treatments, improve product manufacturing, and power breakthrough scientific research. Now, they’re learning how to coax the same tricks out of the electron’s antimatter twin – the positron – to open up a whole new vista of research and applications.
Using the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF) at the Department of Energy’s Jefferson Lab, a team of researchers has, for the first time, demonstrated a new technique for producing polarized positrons. The method could enable new research in advanced materials and offers a new avenue for producing polarized positron beams for a proposed International Linear Collider and an envisioned Electron-Ion Collider.
Jefferson Lab Injector Scientist Joe Grames says the idea for the method grew out of the many advances that have been made in understanding and controlling the electron beams used for research in CEBAF.
“We have a lot of experience here at Jefferson Lab in operating a world-leading electron accelerator,” Grames said. “We are constantly improving the electron beam for the experiments, pushing the limits of what we can get the electrons to do.”
The CEBAF accelerator gathers up free electrons, sets the electrons to spinning like tops, packs them full of additional energy (“accelerating” the particles to up to 12 billion electron-volts), and directs them along a tightly controlled path into experimental targets. Grames and his colleagues would like to take that finesse a step further and transform CEBAF’s well-controlled polarized electron beams into well-controlled beams of polarized positrons to offer researchers at Jefferson Lab an additional probe of nuclear matter. They named the endeavor the Polarized Electrons for Polarized Positrons experiment, or PEPPo.