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The development of laser wakefield accelerators (LWFA) over the past several years has led to an interest in very compact sources of X-ray radiation – such as “table-top” free electron lasers. However, the use of conventional undulators using permanent magnets also implies system sizes which are large. In this work, we assess the possibilities for the use of novel mini-undulators in conjunction with a LWFA so that the dimensions of the undulator become comparable with the acceleration distances for LWFA experiments (i.e., centimeters). The use of a prototype undulator using laser machining of permanent magnets for this application is described and the emission characteristics and limitations of such a system are determined. Preliminary electron propagation and X-ray emission measurements are taken with a LWFA electron beam at the University of Michigan.
High-intensity femtosecond laser–plasma interaction experiments were performed to investigate laser–plasma wakefield acceleration in the “bubble” regime. Using a 15 TW laser pulse, the emission of side-scattered radiation was spectrally and spatially resolved and was consequently used to diagnose the evolution of the laser pulse during the acceleration process. Side-scattered emission was observed immediately before wavebreaking at a frequency of ωL + 1.7ωp (where ωL is the laser frequency and ωp is the background plasma frequency). This emission may result from scattering of laser light by large amplitude plasma oscillations generated in the shell of the wakefield “bubble” and which occurs immediately prior to the wavebreaking/injection process. The observed variation of the frequency of scattered light with electron density agrees with theoretical estimates.
Copper activation was used to characterize high-energy proton beam acceleration from near-critical density plasma targets. An enhancement was observed when decreasing the target density, which is indicative for an increased laser-accelerated hot electron density at the rear target-vacuum boundary. This is due to channel formation and collimation of the hot electrons inside the target. Particle-in-cell simulations support the experimental observations and show the correlation between channel depth and longitudinal electric field strength is directly correlated with the proton acceleration.
Self-modulated wakefield acceleration was investigated at densities down to ~4 × 1018 cm−3 by propagating the 50 TW 300 fs LULI laser in helium gas jets at lengths up to 1 cm. Long interaction lengths were achieved by closer matching of the initial focal spot size to the matched spot size for these densities. Electrons with energies extending to 180 MeV were observed in broad energy spectra which show some evidence for non-Maxwellian features at high energy. Two-dimensional PIC simulations indicate that the intial laser pulse breaks up into small pulselets that are eventually compressed and focused inside the first few plasma periods, leading to a ‘bubble-like’ acceleration of electron bunches.
As the state of the art for high power laser systems increases from terawatt to petawatt level and beyond, a crucial parameter for routinely monitoring high intensity performance is laser spot size on a solid target during an intense interaction in the tight focus regime (<10 µm). Here we present a novel, simple technique for characterizing the spatial profile of such a laser focal spot by imaging the interaction region in third harmonic order (3ωlaser). Nearly linear intensity dependence of 3ωlaser generation for interactions >1019 Wcm−2 is demonstrated experimentally and shown to provide the basis for an effective focus diagnostic. Importantly, this technique is also shown to allow in-situ diagnosis of focal spot quality achieved after reflection from a double plasma mirror setup for very intense high contrast interactions (>1020 Wcm−2) an important application for the field of high laser contrast interaction science.
A “table-top” high power laser has been used to generate
beams of accelerated electrons up to energy of 20 MeV from interactions
with underdense plasmas. The energy spectrum of these beams was measured
using a magnetic spectrometer and proof-of-principle experiments were
performed to evaluate the suitability of these beams for electron
Experiments were performed using high-power laser pulses
(greater than 50 TW) focused into underdense helium, neon,
or deuterium plasmas (ne
≤ 5 × 1019 cm−3).
Ions having energies greater than 300 keV were measured
to be produced primarily at 90° to the axis of laser
propagation. Ion energies greater than 6 MeV were recorded
from interactions with neon. Spatially resolved pinhole
images of the ion emission were also obtained and were
used to estimate the intensity of the focused radiation
in the interaction region.
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