Plasma based compact ion sources
Research Project , 2014 – 2019

Cancer treatment, materials science and energy research are a few areas where energetic ions can be used. Today, the ions must be accelerated in large and expensive facilities, but Swedish researchers are trying to develop a smaller and less expensive method. Lasers are part of the solution. If something is radiated with ions, they have a unique property compared to x-ray radiation or electrons, for example. They release almost all of their energy where they stop, instead of gradually, or at the surface where they penetrate. This means that a very good precision can be achieved, as needed in e.g. cancer treatments. Deeply located tumors can be irradiated without the surrounding tissue being damaged. The technique has been used for several decades, but it has a disadvantage: to produce ions with adequate energy, very large facilities are needed. They are expensive, and patient treatment is presently limited to only a few dedicated facilities in the world. One such facility is now being built in Uppsala, and it will be the first in the Nordic region. With strong electric fields, hydrogen ions, i.e. protons, will be accelerated there, over long distances to reach the energy required for the treatment. But there is another way to produce energetic ions. Around 15 years ago, researchers discovered that if a thin layer of a material, almost any material, is fired at with high power laser pulses, the material’s atoms are ionized: some of their electrons loosen and are thrown off. The material is converted into plasma, kind of like a gas consisting of charged particles. The electric voltage that arises between the electrons thrown off and the positive ions pulls the ions out of the material and gives them high energy. Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Umeå University and Lund University will investigate this process in detail in the next few years.


Tünde Fülöp (contact)

Full Professor at Chalmers, Physics, Subatomic and Plasma Physics

Tom Blackburn

Senior Lecturer at Chalmers, Physics, Theoretical Physics

Julien Ferri

Post doc at Chalmers, Physics, Subatomic and Plasma Physics

Antony Ilderton

Forskare at Chalmers, Physics, Condensed Matter Theory

Joel Magnusson

Post doc at Chalmers, Physics, Theoretical Physics

Mattias Marklund

Full Professor at Chalmers, Physics, Theoretical Physics

Benjamin Svedung Wettervik

Doctoral Student at Chalmers, Physics, Theoretical Physics

Illia Thiele

Arvoderad at Chalmers, Physics, Subatomic and Plasma Physics

Longqing Yi

Visiting Researcher at Chalmers, Physics, Subatomic and Plasma Physics


Lund University

Lund, Sweden

Umeå University

Umeå, Sweden


Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation

Project ID: KAW 2013.0078
Funding Chalmers participation during 2014–2019

Related Areas of Advance and Infrastructure

Sustainable development

Driving Forces

Basic sciences




Intense laser-plasma interactions

Doctoral thesis

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