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The interaction of relativistically intense lasers with opaque targets represents a highly non-linear, multi-dimensional parameter space. This limits the utility of sequential 1D scanning of experimental parameters for the optimization of secondary radiation, although to-date this has been the accepted methodology due to low data acquisition rates. High repetition-rate (HRR) lasers augmented by machine learning present a valuable opportunity for efficient source optimization. Here, an automated, HRR-compatible system produced high-fidelity parameter scans, revealing the influence of laser intensity on target pre-heating and proton generation. A closed-loop Bayesian optimization of maximum proton energy, through control of the laser wavefront and target position, produced proton beams with equivalent maximum energy to manually optimized laser pulses but using only 60% of the laser energy. This demonstration of automated optimization of laser-driven proton beams is a crucial step towards deeper physical insight and the construction of future radiation sources.
We present the development and characterization of a high-stability, multi-material, multi-thickness tape-drive target for laser-driven acceleration at repetition rates of up to 100 Hz. The tape surface position was measured to be stable on the sub-micrometre scale, compatible with the high-numerical aperture focusing geometries required to achieve relativistic intensity interactions with the pulse energy available in current multi-Hz and near-future higher repetition-rate lasers (
kHz). Long-term drift was characterized at 100 Hz demonstrating suitability for operation over extended periods. The target was continuously operated at up to 5 Hz in a recent experiment for 70,000 shots without intervention by the experimental team, with the exception of tape replacement, producing the largest data-set of relativistically intense laser–solid foil measurements to date. This tape drive provides robust targetry for the generation and study of high-repetition-rate ion beams using next-generation high-power laser systems, also enabling wider applications of laser-driven proton sources.
Giant electromagnetic pulses (EMP) generated during the interaction of high-power lasers with solid targets can seriously degrade electrical measurements and equipment. EMP emission is caused by the acceleration of hot electrons inside the target, which produce radiation across a wide band from DC to terahertz frequencies. Improved understanding and control of EMP is vital as we enter a new era of high repetition rate, high intensity lasers (e.g. the Extreme Light Infrastructure). We present recent data from the VULCAN laser facility that demonstrates how EMP can be readily and effectively reduced. Characterization of the EMP was achieved using B-dot and D-dot probes that took measurements for a range of different target and laser parameters. We demonstrate that target stalk geometry, material composition, geodesic path length and foil surface area can all play a significant role in the reduction of EMP. A combination of electromagnetic wave and 3D particle-in-cell simulations is used to inform our conclusions about the effects of stalk geometry on EMP, providing an opportunity for comparison with existing charge separation models.
This paper describes the design and fabrication of a range of ‘gas cell’ microtargets produced by the Target Fabrication Group in the Central Laser Facility (CLF) for academic access experiments on the Orion laser facility at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE). The experiments were carried out by an academic consortium led by Imperial College London. The underlying target methodology was an evolution of a range of targets used for experiments on radiative shocks and involved the fabrication of a precision machined cell containing a number of apertures for interaction foils or diagnostic windows. The interior of the cell was gas-filled before laser irradiation. This paper details the assembly processes, thin film requirements and micro-machining processes needed to produce the targets. Also described is the implementation of a gas-fill system to produce targets that are filled to a pressure of 0.1–1 bar. The paper discusses the challenges that are posed by such a target.
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