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Low-intensity laser prepulses (<10(13) W cm(-2), nanosecond duration) are a major issue in experiments on laser-induced generation of protons, often limiting the performances of proton sources produced by high-intensity lasers (approximate to 10(19) W cm(-2), picosecond or femtosecond duration). Depending on the intensity regime, several effects may be associated with the prepulse, some of which are discussed in this paper: (i) destruction of thin foil targets by the shock generated by the laser prepulse; (ii) creation of preplasma on the target front side affecting laser absorption; (iii) deformation of the target rear side; and (iv) whole displacement of thin foil targets affecting the focusing condition. In particular, we show that under oblique high-intensity irradiation and for low prepulse intensities, the proton beam is directed away from the target normal. Deviation is towards the laser forward direction, with an angle that increases with the level and duration of the ASE pedestal. Also, for a given laser pulse, the beam deviation increases with proton energy. The observations are discussed in terms of target normal sheath acceleration, in combination with a laser-controllable shock wave locally deforming the target surface.
- laser prepulses
- laser-induced proton generation
- thin foil targets