Selective ion acceleration by intense radiation pressure

A. McIlvenny, D. Doria, L. Romagnani, H. Ahmed, N. Booth, E. J. Ditter, O. C. Ettlinger, G. S. Hicks, P. Martin, G. G. Scott, S. D. R. Williamson, A. Macchi, P. McKenna, Z. Najmudin, D. Neely, S. Kar, M. Borghesi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We report on the selective acceleration of carbon ions during the interaction of ultra-short, circularly polarized and contrast-enhanced laser pulses, at a peak intensity of 5.5x1020 W/cm2, with ultra-thin carbon foils. Under optimized conditions, energies/nucleon of the bulk carbon ions reached significantly higher values than the energies of contaminant protons (33 MeV/nucleon vs. 18 MeV), unlike what is typically observed in laser-foil acceleration experiments. Experimental data, and supporting simulations, emphasise different dominant acceleration mechanisms per ion species and highlight an (intensity dependent) optimum thickness for radiation pressure acceleration; it is suggested that the preceding laser energy reaching the target before the main pulse arrives plays a key role in a preferential acceleration of the heavier ion species.
Original languageEnglish
Article number194801
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021


  • ion acceleration
  • intense radiation pressure
  • laser-driven ions
  • laser pulses
  • plasma


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