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[Summer series] Sébastien Corde - Force of collision

Sébastien Corde, researcher at the Applied Optics Laboratory of l'X, uses plasma waves to accelerate the particles

©Silvère Leprovost

His discovery may very well make it possible to find a successor to the world’s most powerful collider, currently the CERN collider. “The future of research on colliders depends on our ability to innovate,” states Sébastien Corde, a researcher at École Polytechnique's Applied Optics Laboratory.

Plasma waves to accelerate the particles

His idea is to use plasma to develop a new generation of particle accelerators and colliders. To overcome the limits of current technologies, the physicist seeks to accelerate the particles with plasma waves, in order to benefit from greater accelerations but also to build more compact accelerators.

To create a plasma wave, two strategies are possible. The first, which involves the use of lasers, is limited by its low energy efficiency. The second, which consists in using a particle beam, is more efficient but more cumbersome. The method Sébastien Corde is developing is at the intersection of these two techniques, insofar as the plasma waves are created from a particle beam, which is itself generated by a laser.

Scientific collaboration

Pushing the boundaries of knowledge does not frighten the researcher. “For a long time, I learned things that worked, until I reached the frontier where science enters the realm of hypotheses,” he explains. Although he did not initially see himself becoming a researcher, Sébastien Corde has always been driven by a quest for understanding. This is what has driven him, ever since his studies at École Normale Supérieure Lyon, to search for new answers.

For this, he relies on the strength of teamwork. “In my postdoctoral work, I was impressed by the importance of collaboration and how researchers from different backgrounds can contribute to a common goal,” he says. With a grant from the European Research Council in 2016, Sébastien Corde plans to set up a research team for his project on a new plasma-based particle accelerator, called Miniature beam-driven plasma accelerators.

Find all the portraits of researchers of our summer series, here.