2021 Michael Faraday Medal and Prize

Dr Bucker Dangor for outstanding contributions to experimental plasma physics, and in particular for his role in the development of the field of laser-plasma acceleration.

Dr Bucker Dangor IOP Michael Faraday Medal and Prize winner 2021

Dr Bucker Dangor has made numerous major contributions to experimental plasma physics, and is particularly noted for the development of the field of laser-plasma acceleration. Particle accelerators play a central role in many areas of science, including radiation therapy, light sources and high-energy physics searches.

A candidate for taking particle accelerators to the next level are plasma-based acceleration schemes. Many laser facilities are now being built to take advantage of the high accelerating fields of plasma-based accelerators, allowing them to be more compact than conventional techniques.

Dangor was one of the first people to see the potential of plasma-based particle accelerators and his group was initially one of only a handful in the world studying the generation of large-amplitude relativistic plasma waves that could enable particle acceleration. His major contribution came in a series of experiments he proposed on the then newly opened Vulcan chirped pulse amplification (CPA) laser at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.

Dangor was a major proponent of the implementation of the CPA technique to the existing Vulcan laser. This was because he realised that with the higher intensities afforded by CPA lasers, the plasma wave could be grown to large amplitude in a much shorter time before competing instabilities could limit their growth.

The experiments were hugely successful. Experiments with underdense plasmas demonstrated the growth of a plasma wave through self-modulation of the driver (a process now used in the Advanced Proton Driven Plasma Wakefield Acceleration (AWAKE) experiment at CERN), and acceleration of electrons to beyond 100 megaelectron volts (MeV).

At the same time, a number of experiments on overdense targets measured targets’ rapid heating, which eventually led to the production and detection of high-charge ion beams with energies exceeding tens of MeV/nucleon.

This technique is now routinely used as a source of multi-MeV ions. These experiments laid the foundations of laser-driven particle accelerators and the resulting publications are some of the highest cited works in the field.

In addition, Dangor has made major contributions to many other areas of plasma physics, especially magnetically confined plasmas, both through his studies of pulse-power driven pinches and also through his contributions to the diagnosis of magnetically confined plasmas at the Culham Laboratory.

The legacy of this work can still be witnessed in the running of the highly successful Magpie pulse-power facility at Imperial College London and of the Thomson scattering diagnostic routinely used on the Joint European Torus and Mega Ampere Spherical Tokamak experiments.