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Filamentary structures can form within the beam of protons accelerated during the interaction of an intense laser pulse with an ultrathin foil target. Such behaviour is shown to be dependent upon the formation time of quasi-static magnetic field structures throughout the target volume and the extent of the rear surface proton expansion over the same period. This is observed via both numerical and experimental investigations. By controlling the intensity profile of the laser drive, via the use of two temporally separated pulses, both the initial rear surface proton expansion and magnetic field formation time can be varied, resulting in modification to the degree of filamentary structure present within the laser-driven proton beam.
We report on the experimental demonstration of a technique to generate steep density gradients in gas-jet targets of interest to laser–plasma ion acceleration. By using an intentional low-energy prepulse, we generated a hydrodynamic blast wave in the gas to shape the target prior to the arrival of an intense CO
) drive pulse. This technique has been recently shown to facilitate the generation of ion beams by shockwave acceleration (Tresca et al., Phys. Rev. Lett., vol. 115 (9), 2015, 094802). Here, we discuss and introduce a model to understand the generation of these blast waves and discuss in depth the experimental realisation of the technique, supported by hydrodynamics simulations. With appropriate prepulse energy and timing, this blast wave can generate steepened density gradients as short as
), opening up new possibilities for laser–plasma studies with near-critical gaseous targets.
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