Optical Rocket Boosts Electrons to Nearly the Speed of Light

Artist's impression of the Nebraska experiment, where the white orbs represent two laser pulses with plasma waves in their wakes. The waves interfere with one another after the laser pulses cross, and electrons ride the wake field waves to higher energy. Credit: University of Nebraska-Lincoln/ELL

A team of researchers from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln recently conducted an experiment where they were able to accelerate plasma electrons to close to the speed of light. This “optical rocket”, which pushed electrons at a force a trillion-trillion times greater than that generated by a conventional rocket, could have serious implications for everything from space travel to computing and nanotechnology.

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