A dielectric-wall linear accelerator is improved by a high-voltage, fast rise-time switch that includes a pair of electrodes between which are laminated alternating layers of isolated conductors and insulators. A high voltage is placed between the electrodes sufficient to stress the voltage breakdown of the insulator on command. A light trigger, such as a laser, is focused along at least one line along the edge surface of the laminated alternating layers of isolated conductors and insulators extending between the electrodes. The laser is energized to initiate a surface breakdown by a fluence of photons, thus causing the electrical switch to close very promptly. Such insulators and lasers are incorporated in a dielectric wall linear accelerator with Blumlein modules, and phasing is controlled by adjusting the length of fiber optic cables that carry the laser light to the insulator surface.
The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract No. W-7405-ENG-48 between the United States Department of Energy and the University of California for the operation of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.