Towards optical polarization control of laser-driven proton acceleration in foils undergoing relativistic transparency

Bruno Gonzalez-Izquierdo, Martin King, Ross J. Gray, Robbie Wilson, Rachel J. Dance, Haydn Powell, David A. MacLellan, John McCreadie, Nicholas M.H. Butler, Steve Hawkes, James S. Green, Chris D. Murphy, Luca C. Stockhausen, David C. Carroll, Nicola Booth, Graeme G. Scott, Marco Borghesi, David Neely, Paul McKenna

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Control of the collective response of plasma particles to intense laser light is intrinsic to relativistic optics, the development of compact laser-driven particle and radiation sources, as well as investigations of some laboratory astrophysics phenomena. We recently demonstrated that a relativistic plasma aperture produced in an ultra-thin foil at the focus of intense laser radiation can induce diffraction, enabling polarization-based control of the collective motion of plasma electrons. Here we show that under these conditions the electron dynamics are mapped into the beam of protons accelerated via strong charge-separation-induced electrostatic fields. It is demonstrated experimentally and numerically via 3D particle-in-cell simulations that the degree of ellipticity of the laser polarization strongly influences the spatial-intensity distribution of the beam of multi-MeV protons. The influence on both sheath accelerated and radiation pressure accelerated protons is investigated. This approach opens up new routes to control laser-driven ion sources.
Original languageEnglish
Article number12891
Number of pages10
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sept 2016


  • laser-plasma interaction
  • proton acceleration
  • charged particle dynamics
  • plasma particles
  • laser light
  • multi-MeV protons
  • plasma based accelerators
  • laser-produced plasmas


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