A laser-plasma platform for photon-photon physics: The two photon Breit-Wheeler process

B. Kettle*, D. Hollatz, E. Gerstmayr, G. M. Samarin, A. Alejo, S. Astbury, C. Baird, S. Bohlen, M. Campbell, C. Colgan, D. Dannheim, C. Gregory, H. Harsh, P. Hatfield, J. Hinojosa, Y. Katzir, J. Morton, C. D. Murphy, A. Nurnberg, J. OsterhoffG. Pérez-Callejo, K. Põder, P. P. Rajeev, C. Roedel, F. Roeder, F. C. Salgado, G. Sarri, A. Seidel, S. Spannagel, C. Spindloe, S. Steinke, M. J.V. Streeter, A. G.R. Thomas, C. Underwood, R. Watt, M. Zepf, S. J. Rose, S. P.D. Mangles

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We describe a laser-plasma platform for photon-photon collision experiments to measure fundamental quantum electrodynamic processes. As an example we describe using this platform to attempt to observe the linear Breit-Wheeler process. The platform has been developed using the Gemini laser facility at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. A laser Wakefield accelerator and a bremsstrahlung convertor are used to generate a collimated beam of photons with energies of hundreds of MeV, that collide with keV x-ray photons generated by a laser heated plasma target. To detect the pairs generated by the photon-photon collisions, a magnetic transport system has been developed which directs the pairs onto scintillation-based and hybrid silicon pixel single particle detectors (SPDs). We present commissioning results from an experimental campaign using this laser-plasma platform for photon-photon physics, demonstrating successful generation of both photon sources, characterisation of the magnetic transport system and calibration of the SPDs, and discuss the feasibility of this platform for the observation of the Breit-Wheeler process. The design of the platform will also serve as the basis for the investigation of strong-field quantum electrodynamic processes such as the nonlinear Breit-Wheeler and the Trident process, or eventually, photon-photon scattering.

Original languageEnglish
Article number115006
JournalNew Journal of Physics
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 3 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We wish to acknowledge the support of the staff at the Central Laser Facility, the help from Robin Pitman and Vernon Gibson, and also to thank the Medipix3 Collaboration for providing the Timepix3 sensors. This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant Agreement No. 682399) and STFC (Grant No. ST/P002021/1). JH and AT acknowledge support from the US National Science Foundation grant #1804463. GS would like to acknowledge support from EPSRC (Grant Nos. EP/N027175/1, EP/P010059/1).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by IOP Publishing Ltd on behalf of the Institute of Physics and Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft


  • Breit-Wheeler
  • Laser-plasma
  • LWFA
  • Pair production
  • Photon-photon
  • QED

Cite this