Bernhard Hidding joined the Physics Department in 2013 and holds the Chair of Experimental Physics at SCAPA, the Scottish Centre for the Application of Plasma-based Accelerators http://www.scapa.ac.uk/ ) This facility, a collaboration between various SUPA groups, aims at developing high power laser-plasma accelerator technology towards a number of applications for use in material science, chemistry, biology and medicine. Bernhard’s research concentrates on laser wakefield acceleration (LWFA) and beam-driven plasma wakefield acceleration (PWFA) of electrons, and resulting applications such as imaging techniques and advanced light sources. Before coming to Strathclyde, Bernhard was at University of Hamburg/CFEL/DESY, where he still maintains a group which is now closely collaborating with Strathclyde.
One flagship project is the development of a so-called "underdense plasma photocathode", which may lead to the production of monoenergetic electron beams with much higher quality than ever before. The emittance and brightness of these electron beams may exceed even that of the best state-of-the-art accelerators such as those used for light sources such s the LCLS at SLAC or the XFEL at DESY by a wide margin. At the same time, while these accelerators require km-scale tunnel systems for acceleration, plasma accelerators can boost the electrons to comparable energies on the metre-scale. By decoupling the acceleration process in the plasma wave from the generation of the electron bunch directly inside the plasma wave cavity in a process also known as "Trojan Horse" plasma wakefield acceleration, unprecedented controllability and electron bunch quality is made feasible. A key feature of this process is to release the electrons with a tightly focused, relatively low energy laser pulse via photoionization, thereby producing ultracold electrons which minimize the emittance of the beam. In turn, the brightness of the electron beam is boosted, which is crucial for light sources such as free-electron lasers. This could open the door towards ultracompact xray free electron lasers with enhanced performance for imaging techniques of ultrafast processes such as those in single molecules, which is an ultimate goal towards understanding fundamental processes occuring in nature and to develop novel drugs and materials. At SCAPA, work is underway to realize the underdense photocathode based on hybrid LWFA/PWFA acceleration. In the E-210 “Trojan Horse” collaboration at FACET at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, the 23 GeV electron beam will be used for proof-of-concept experiments.
Another project is the establishment of electron, proton and ion beams produced by laser-plasma-acceleration as an advanced radiation hardness testing technique of electronics in nuclear reactor environments, onboard aircrafts and space vessels such as satellites. Laser-plasma-accelerators are capable of producing high flux of very broad-band particle beams -- a feature they share with the actual radiation in space. For example, in the van Allen-belts, which are especially important since satellites such as GPS are positioned there, so called "killer electrons" can put satellites out of function. Using laser-plasma-accelerators, it is possible to exactly reproduce these killer electrons in the laboratory here on Earth, which offers dramatically better testing procedures on the one hand, and potentially may lead to the devlopment of much more radiation hard electronic components with higher performance for future space vessel electronics.
He is the Director of the Strathclyde Centre for Doctoral Training (SCDT) Plasma-based Particle and Light Sources (P-PALS), http://ppals.phys.strath.ac.uk/
The SCDT P-PALS is an international, multi-institutional and multi-disciplinary Centre for Doctoral Training, founded by the University of Strathclyde and partners in 2016. It covers a broad range of connected experimental, theoretical and computational areas in plasma physics, laser and particle beams, and applications such as novel light sources. It is driven by the transformative progress as regards the realization of compact, plasma-based radiation sources by an ever increasing number of research groups in academia and industry worldwide. This scientific progress requires the education and training of next generation research leaders with the capability to think out of the box, to contribute to cross-disciplinary and international collaborative R& D projects, and a realistic understanding of the importance of doability and how to put novel concepts and technologies to use, including their industrial realisation.