In the experiments reported here, the filamentation of ultrashort laser pulses, due to non-optimal choice of focusing geometry and/or electron number density, has a severely deleterious effect on monoenergetic electron beam production in laser wakefield accelerators. Interactions with relatively small focal spots, w0 < λp/2, and with pulse length cτ λp, incur fragmentation into a large number of low power filaments. These filaments are modulated with a density dependent size of, on average, close to λp. The break-up of the driving pulse results in shorter interaction lengths, compared with larger focal spots, and broad energy-spread electron beams, which are not useful for applications. Filamentation of the pulse occurs because the strongly dynamic focusing (small f-number) of the laser prevents pulse length compression before reaching its minimum spot-size, which results in non-spherical focusing gradients.
- ultrashort pulse filamentation
- monoenergetic electron beam production