Advances in laser technology have driven the development of laser-wakefield accelerators, compact devices that are capable of accelerating electrons to GeV energies over centimetre distances by exploiting the strong electric field gradients arising from the interaction of intense laser pulses with an underdense plasma. A side-effect of this acceleration mechanism is the production of high-charge, low-energy electron beams at wide angles. Here we present an experimental and numerical study of the properties of these wide-angle electron beams, and show that they carry off a significant fraction of the energy transferred from the laser to the plasma. These high-charge, wide-angle beams can also cause damage to laser-wakefield accelerators based on capillaries, as well as become source of unwanted bremsstrahlung radiation.
- laser-wakefield acceleration
- low-energy high-charge electron beams
- laser-driven particle accelerators