Plasma wakefield acceleration has demonstrated that charged particles can be accelerated in a plasma with a much higher gradient than in conventional radio-frequency metallic structures. In this context, AWAKE studies the driving of plasma wakefields by proton bunches in a regime called the seeded self-modulation regime (SSM). The SSM process transforms the proton bunch initially long (6-12cm) when compared to the plasma wavelength (~1mm) in a train of short bunches separated by the plasma wavelength. The train can then drive wakefields to large amplitude (~1GeV/m). Currently, the goal is to externally injected low energy electrons (~15MeV) into the wakefields and to accelerate them to the GeV energy level. Later experiments will focus on accelerating a bunch electrons while maintaining low relative energy spread and low emittance.
I will introduce the concept of plasma wakefields as well as the AWAKE experiment. I will show some of the latest self-modulation results and briefly touch on challenges and possible application of the concept.