The lateral transport patterns of energetic electrons in thin foil targets irradiated with relativistically intense, picosecond laser pulses with different peak-to-pedestal intensity contrast ratios are reported. For 'low contrast' pulses, a large current of energetic electrons is found to be transported along the target front surface, due to the formation of strong quasi-static electric and magnetic fields. This is distinctly different from the case with 'high contrast' pulses, where energetic electrons are spatially confined. Although this lateral transport reduces the efficiency of the laser energy coupling into ion and radiation production in the region of the laser focus, it can play an important role in directing energy transport in advanced fast ignition schemes involving hollow cone targets and also in heating the target (to generate states of warm dense matter) in regions far from the drive laser focus.
- fast electron lateral transport
- proton acceleration
- X-ray spectroscopy
- preformed plasma
- surface guided lateral transport
- energetic electrons
- short laser foil