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A method for self-injection of background plasma electrons in a plasma wake field is introduced. In this scheme, a plasma wake wave, which can be generated by an intense laser pulse or an electron beam pulse propagating in a plasma, is passed through a sharply downward plasma density transition. When the plasma wake wave passes the density transition, some background plasma electrons are trapped by the ultrastrong plasma wake field that is several orders of magnitude stronger than the accelerating electric field in conventional rf-based accelerators. In this paper, the basic mechanism of the trapping is introduced and two-dimensional particle-in-cell simulation results including trapped-beam quality studies are presented. In addition, the experimental program to investigate the self-injection-based acceleration at the Center for Advanced Accelerators of KERI is introduced. © 2002 American Institute of Physics.