Simon Hooker

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Simon Hooker

Professor of Atomic and Laser Physics

Simon Hooker leads a research group working on plasma accelerators and novel sources of coherent x-rays. He is a tutorial fellow of Merton College.
Following undergraduate and graduate degrees in Oxford he moved to Stanford University before returning to Oxford as a Royal Society University Research Fellow.
In 2011 he was a co-recipient of the American Physical Society's John Dawson Award for Excellence in Plasma Physics Research. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics and of the Optical Society of America.
With Colin Webb, FRS he has written an undergraduate textbook on Laser Physics for Oxford University Press.

Our work on new x-ray sources centres on developing techniques for increasing the efficiency of high-harmonic generation (HHG). In this method, the highly nonlinear interaction between high-intensity laser pulses and atoms generates odd harmonics of the frequency of the driving laser. Very high-order harmonics are possible — the harmonic order can reach several hundred — allowing the generation of light at nanometre wavelengths with visible driving lasers. We are studying so-called quasi-phase-matching methods, which could increase the efficiency of HHG by orders of magnitude. In the longer term we aim to work with chemists and physicists on experiments to use these novel sources of bright x-radiation.

At intensities of around 1022 W m-2, laser pulses propagating through a plasma generate a longitudinal plasma wave which trails the laser pulse in much the same way a wake follows a boat travelling across water. The electric fields in the plasma wave can reach 100 kilovolts per micron, at least a thousand times bigger than the accelerating fields used in the LHC at CERN. We have used this approach to generate electron beams with energies of up to 1 GeV — an energy typical of that used in present generation synchrotrons and free-electron lasers — in an acceleration stage only 3 cm long. We are presently working on techniques to control the injection of particles into the plasma wave, staging of plasma accelerators, and their application to generating femtosecond x-ray pulses.

I give 4th year undergraduate lectures on Laser Physics (Paper C2).

In previous years I have also given lectures on Lasers and Molecules (Paper B3).


With Colin Webb I have written a textbook on Laser Physics, published by Oxford University Press. Further details may be found here.