Along with our colleagues in the Lancaster University's Engineering Department, the members of the Lancaster accelerator physics group are part of the Cockcroft Institute of Accelerator Science and Technology based at the Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus near Warrington, Cheshire.
Particle accelerators are potent tools that lie at the heart of research into particle physics but also play significant roles in fields such as medicine. Wherever a beam of high-energy particles or light can be of use, particle accelerators offer a solution.
There are always demands for particle beams with higher energies and higher intensities, but there are limitations to what can be achieved using the accelerators of today. Some of these limitations are practical ones determined by cost and size, whereas others are fundamental and relate to unanswered questions about how charged particles interact with electromagnetic fields. We use our expertise in particle physics and mathematical physics to address these limitations. You can find out more about our plasma interactions research on our plasma physics research pages.
On the experimental side of our work, we investigate a range of topics such as how we can use beams of polarised particles to help probe mysteries in particle physics. On the theoretical side, we develop new effective classical and quantum theories for analysing matter in extreme conditions, with implications for cosmic particle acceleration as well as for experiments in the laboratory.
- The development and design of high-flux sources of positrons and gamma-rays for future high-energy colliders and other applications. For example, developing the positron source for the International Linear Collider
- Simulating the dynamics and interactions of polarised particle beams in experiments such as Fermilab muon g-2
- Leading the CASCADE collaboration in its search for weakly-interacting sub-eV particles such as axions using radio-frequency cavities
- Investigating wave propagation in spatially dispersive media and photonic structures
- Exploring radiation reaction in ultra-intense laser-plasmas as members of the ALPHA-X collaboration
Probing the Standard Model by measuring the electric and magnetic dipole moments of muons
Dr Ian Bailey
Measurements of the electric and magnetic moments of fundamental particles are sensitive tests of the whole Standard Model of particle physics. Recent results from the US-based Fermilab Muon g-2 collaboration have confirmed that the magnetic dipole moment (MDM) of the muon is statistically very unlikely to be in agreement with the prediction from the Standard Model of particle physics, although more data is needed. This is a strong indication that ‘new physics’ (unknown particles or forces) could be perturbing the magnetic moment. The Fermilab Muon g-2 collaboration is continuing to take data, using muons with the “magic” momentum 3.094 GeV/c circulating at a radius of 7.112 m in a highly-uniform toroidal magnetic field of nominal strength 1.451 T.
The Fermilab muon g-2 experiment is also making measurements of the electric dipole moment (EDM) of the muon, but is not as optimal for this measurement. The Swiss-based PSI muon EDM collaboration is working on the design of an experiment that will be dedicated to measuring the muon EDM using a small muon storage ring and the "frozen-spin" technique.
The student working on this project would become a member of the Cockroft Institute of Accelerator Science and Technology, and will be able to contribute to both the ongoing Fermilab muon g-2 experiment and proposed PSI muon EDM experiment by developing and analysing beam dynamics simulations for understanding the subtle behaviours of the muons in the electric and magnetic fields of these experiments, and by analysing the data to make measurements of the muon electric and magnetic dipole moments.
Applicants are normally expected to have the equivalent of a first (1) or upper second (2.1) degree class in Physics or Astrophysics. Students interested in this PhD studentship should apply via the Lancaster University admission system.
Funding is available on a competitive basis.
Please contact Dr Ian Bailey for further information.
Laser-driven ultrafast electron diffraction:
A PhD project with Lancaster Physics and the Cockcroft Institute
Professor Steven Jamison
Lancaster Physics department and partners in the Cockcroft Institute are world-leading in the use of femtosecond lasers and non-linear optics for manipulating electron beams. This project will use femtosecond lasers to compress 100 keV electron beams to tens of femtoseconds in duration (it takes light 300fs to cross the width of a hair). Having demonstrated compression of electron beam, time-resolved electron diffraction will be undertaken to observe coherent phonon motion in solids. The work will be undertaken with femtosecond lasers and 100keV electron beams available in our lab at Daresbury National Laboratory.
We welcome applications from students holding or expecting a 1st or 2i physics degree. We particularly encourage applicants with an interest in cross-disciplinary experimental physics.
The project encompassed lasers and ultrafast optics, condensed matter physics, electromagnetism and electron-dynamics. We do not require or expect candidates to have taken undergraduate courses in all of these areas. The Cockcroft Institute postgraduate lecture programme in particle accelerator science and engineering will be part of the PhD training offered to students.
Laser-plasma acceleration: high energy particle acceleration with lasers:
A PhD project with Lancaster Physics and the Cockcroft Institute.
Professor Steven Jamison
Lancaster Physics is leading a UK-wide research programme in laser-plasma acceleration utilizing high-energy particle accelerator and laser facilities at Daresbury National Laboratory.
Within this programme, a PhD is offered to work on using intense lasers and non-linear optics to accelerate and compress high energy (>100 MeV) electron beams, and enabling injection of the electrons into a GeV-level laser-plasma acceleration stage.
The student will develop and undertake experiments where terawatt (1012 W) laser pulses will first generate high-field far-infrared pulses, and then these pulses will accelerate and compress the 100 MeV electron beams. Working with other researchers from Lancaster, Liverpool, Manchester, Oxford universities, and Daresbury laboratory scientists and engineers, you will work to see the compressed electron bunch injected and accelerated to GeV energies. The programme seeks to set a new benchmark in the capability of high-gradient particle acceleration.
We welcome applications from students holding or expecting a 1st or 2i physics degree.
The project encompasses lasers and ultrafast and non-linear optics, electromagnetism and relativity, and electron-beam dynamics. We do not require or expect candidates to have taken undergraduate courses in all of these areas. The Cockcroft Institute postgraduate lecture programme in particle accelerator science and engineering will be part of the PhD training offered to students.
Super-macro-particles to improve in Particle-in-cell codes
Dr Jonathan Gratus (Lancaster University, Physics) and Professor Graeme Burt (Lancaster University, Engineering)
Particle-in-cell (PIC) codes are essential for the numerical simulation of charged particles in both conventional accelerators and plasmas. They are used extensively for understanding the physics and design of future machines. A typical code may have to track billions of particles and may need to run on high-performance computer clusters.
We are investigating a revolutionary new method which promises to dramatically reduce the computation needed for simulations. This method increases the dynamical information of each particle while reducing the total number of particles.
To aid in this task we need an enthusiastic PhD student to incorporate the new dynamical equations into existing PIC codes and compare the results with standard simulations.
The student will become a member of the Cockcroft Institute and will participate in the Cockcroft Institute Education and Training Programme, whereby they will participate in a lecture programme over the first 2 years of study in addition to their work on their project. The candidate should have at least a 2:1 or equivalent in maths, physics or engineering and have a solid understanding of mathematical concepts and theory. However, applicants who have gained experience in relevant fields through non-traditional routes are strongly encouraged to apply. We welcome applications from Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) candidates, candidates who are in the first generation of their family to go to university, candidates who have been in care or who have been a young carer, and candidates from a low-income background
Funding and eligibility: This studentship is competitively funded. Upon acceptance of a student, this project will be funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council for 3.5 years; UK and other students are eligible to apply, although overseas students may be required to secure additional funding. A full package of training and support will be provided by the Cockcroft Institute, and the student will take part in a vibrant accelerator research and education community of over 150 people. An IELTS score of at least 6.5 is required (or equivalent).
Potential applicants are encouraged to contact Dr Jonathan Gratus (email@example.com) for more information.
How to apply
Anticipated Start Date: October 2024 for 3.5 Years
Dr Rstislav Mikhaylovskiy
Finding a fundamentally new way for data processing in the fastest and most energy efficient manner is a frontier problem for applied physics and technology. The amount of data generated every second is so enormous that the heat produced by modern data centres has already become a serious limitation to further increase their performance. This heating is a result of the Ohmic dissipation of energy unavoidable in conventional electronics. At present, the data industry lacks a solution for this problem, which in future may contribute greatly to the global warming and energy crisis.
An emerging alternative approach is to employ spin waves (magnons) to realize waveform-based computation, which is free from electronic Joule heating. However, the present realization of this approach, called magnonics, uses electric currents to generate and modulate magnons. In the course of this PhD project we will work towards replacement of the current by light using antiferromagnetic materials, in which spins precess on a picosecond (one trillionth of a second) timescale and strongly couple to electro-magnetic waves . Yet, the antiferromagnetic THz (1 THz = 1012 Hz) magnons remain practically unexplored .
To excite THz magnons we will use ultrashort strong electro-magnetic fields produced either by table-top ultrafast lasers. We will push the driven spin dynamics into strongly nonlinear regime required for practical applications such as quantum computation or magnetization switching . We will investigate nonlinear interaction of intense and highly coherent magnons with an eye on reaching regimes of auto-oscillations, nonlinear frequency conversion and complete magnetization reversal .
This interdisciplinary project at the interface between magnetism and photonics offers training in ultrafast optics, THz and magneto-optical spectroscopies as well as in physics of magnetically ordered materials. Also, there will be opportunities for travel and experiments using THz free-electron laser facilities such as FELIX (Nijmegen, Netherlands) and TELBE (Dresden, Germany).
Interested candidates should contact Dr Rostislav Mikhaylovskiy firstname.lastname@example.org for further information. Funding is available on a competitive basis.
. K. Grishunin , T. Huisman, G. Li, E. Mishina, Th. Rasing, A. V. Kimel, K. Zhang, Z. Jin, S. Cao, W. Ren , G.-H. Ma and R. V. Mikhaylovskiy. Terahertz magnon-polaritons in TmFeO3. ACS Photonics 5, 1375 (2018).
. J. R. Hortensius, D. Afanasiev, M. Matthiesen, R. Leenders, R. Citro, A. V. Kimel, R. V. Mikhaylovskiy, B. A. Ivanov & A. D. Caviglia. Coherent spin-wave transport in an antiferromagnet. Nature Physics 17, 1001 (2021).
. S. Baierl, M. Hohenleutner, T. Kampfrath, A. K. Zvezdin, A. V. Kimel, R. Huber, and R. V. Mikhaylovskiy. Nonlinear spin control by terahertz driven anisotropy fields. Nature Photonics 10, 715 (2016).
 S. Schlauderer, C. Lange, S. Baierl, T. Ebnet, C. P. Schmid, D. C. Valovcin, A. K. Zvezdin, A. V. Kimel, R. V. Mikhaylovskiy and R. Huber. Temporal and spectral fingerprints of ultrafast all-coherent spin switching. Nature 569, 383 (2019).
All postgraduate students in the accelerator physics group are members of the Cockcroft Institute of Accelerator Science and Technology. The Cockcroft Institute runs a two-year postgraduate education programme in accelerator science and technology which is compulsory for its own PhD students and also available to students in other groups and at other universities. The lectures are recorded to be webcast and archived.
The lecture programme has an initial 3 months introductory period starting in October and runs once a week until December of each year. Lectures cover the basics of accelerator science and technology, including beam dynamics and magnet design.
The advanced portion of the lecture programme runs from January to September and on a two-year cycle covers topics such as:
- Hamiltonian beam dynamics
- Free-electron lasers
- Radio frequency engineering
- Laser plasma acceleration
All of our PhD students complete a number of assessments covering the Cockcroft Institute introductory course syllabus and are given the opportunity to carry out computational laboratory exercises including computational tools such as CST Microwave Studio, OPERA and MADX, to design RF cavities, magnets and particle beamlines respectively.
Depending on the nature of the PhD topic being covered, our students may also attend some of the graduate training offered by our colleagues in the Mathematical Physics group or Experimental Particle Physics groups.
Additional training opportunities
Further specialised training in accelerator physics may be offered through attendance at one or more of the CERN accelerator schools.
In addition to attending international conferences relevant to their degree, our students attend the annual accelerator PhD student conference at the Cockcroft Institute where they present their work and receive feedback on their presentation skills.
In common with all Lancaster postgraduate students, our students have access to a wide range of other general and transferable-skills training courses through the university.