Detection of positrons from Breit-Wheeler pair formation

This work explores the experimental observation of the Breit-Wheeler process, first described by Gregory Breit and John A. Wheeler in 1934 [1], where two photons collide to form an electron positron pair from the quantum vacuum. The specific challenge thereby is the low cross section of a few 10e 29 m2 or 0.1 b combined with the requirement of photon energies in the range of mega electronvolt. Such beams can be provided by particle accelerators, for instance LCLS at SLAC or the European XFEL at DESY. Experiments exploring photon photon collisions with conventional accelerators were done in the past, for example E144 at SLAC in 1997 [2], however the two photon process described by Breit and Wheeler has not yet been observed. Over the last few decades, novel laser driven plasma based particle accelerators (LWFA) made significant progress [3, 4, 5, 6], allowing the production of the required photon beams to study the Breit-Wheeler process at pure laser facilities [7, 8, 9]. The work in hand explores the challenges related to such an experiment specifically at high power laser facilities using the example of Astra Gemini, a multi 100TW dual beam system at the CLF in England. In an experiment, multi 100MeV γ-rays from LWFA electron bremsstrahlung and 1-2 keV x-rays from Germanium M-L shell transition radiation are collided to produce pairs through the Breit-Wheeler process. A detection system to measure those pairs composed of a permanent magnet beam line and shielded single particle detectors is developed and tested within this thesis. The acquired data allows an estimate of the requirements for future experiments to measure the two-photon Breit-Wheeler process.


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