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Wim Leemans

laser plasma physicist: Accelerator and Fusion Research Division

Paul Preuss, 510-486-6249,

Lynn Yarris, 510-486-5375,


Wim Leemans is the founder and head of the Laser Optical Systems Integrated Studies (LOASIS) program and director of the Berkeley Lab Laser Accelerator (BELLA) program in Berkeley Lab’s Accelerator and Fusion Research Division. A native of Belgium, Leemans joined Berkeley Lab in 1991. As the leading pioneer of laser wakefield acceleration, with its promise of accelerating power up to 10,000 times greater than today’s conventional accelerators, he and his colleagues have made a series of key advances demonstrating that laser plasma accelerator technology is not only theoretical but practical.

In 2004 the LOASIS team used a unique focusing concept of plasma channels, analogous to optical fibers, to achieve high-quality electron beams of 80 million electron volts. In 2006 LOASIS researchers garnered worldwide attention by using a plasma channel in a block of sapphire to demonstrate acceleration of high-quality electron beams to a billion electron volts in a distance of just 3.3 centimeters. With DOE support Leemans and the LOASIS Program have now initiated the Berkeley Lab Laser Accelerator, BELLA, using petawatt lasers to accelerate a high-quality beam of electrons to 10 billion electron volts in less than a meter. Although primarily a research facility for investigating advanced accelerator concepts, the BELLA laser accelerator could form the core of a user facility unlike any in the world for research in physics, chemistry, biology, and materials.

Recent research

"Physics of laser-driven plasma-based electron accelerators," Reviews of Modern Physics, Issue 3, 2009

"Laser-driven plasma-wave electron accelerators," Physics Today, March 2009

"GeV electron beams from a centimeter-scale accelerator," Nature Physics, October 2006

"High-quality electron beams from a laser wakefield accelerator using plasma-channel guiding," Nature, 30 September 2004 (cover story)

Awards and Memberships

2010 John Dawson Award for Excellence in Plasma Physics Research, American Physical Society

2009 Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award, U.S. Department of Energy

2005 U.S. Particle Accelerator School Prize for Achievement in Accelerator Physics and Technology

Fellow of the American Physical Society

Fellow of IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers)

2007-2009, Chair of the International Committee for Future Accelerators, Panel on Advanced and Novel Accelerators

In the News

"Berkeley Lab's Wim Leemans and his incredible shrinking accelerators," DOE Pulse, 1 February 2010

"Crashing the size barrier," symmetry magazine, October 2009


University of California at Los Angeles, electrical engineering, MS 1987, Ph.D. 1991

Free University of Brussels (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), electrical engineering and applied physics, 1985


Wim Leemans explains laser wakefield acceleration in one minute.

Wim Leemans discusses the details of laser plasma accelerator technology in under an hour.

last updated: 2011-05-19 10:31:15