Laser pulse propagation and enhanced energy coupling to fast electrons in dense plasma gradients

R J Gray, D C Carroll, X H Yuan, C M Brenner, M Burza, M Coury, K L Lancaster, X X Lin, Y T Li, D Neely, M N Quinn, O Tresca, C-G Wahlström, P McKenna

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Laser energy absorption to fast electrons during the interaction of an ultra-intense (1020 W/cm2), picosecond laser pulse with a solid is investigated, experimentally and numerically, as a function of the plasma density scale length at the irradiated surface. It is shown that there is an optimum density gradient for efficient energy coupling to electrons and that this arises due to strong self-focusing and channeling driving energy absorption over an extended length in the preformed plasma. At longer density gradients the laser laments, resulting in significantly lower overall energy coupling. As the scale length is further increased, a transition to a second laser energy absorption process is observed experimentally via multiple diagnostics. The results demonstrate that it is possible to significantly enhance laser energy absorption and coupling to fast electrons by dynamically controlling the plasma density gradient.
Original languageEnglish
Article number113075
Number of pages13
JournalNew Journal of Physics
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 28 Nov 2014


  • laser pulse
  • energy coupling
  • fast electrons
  • plasma gradients


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