Letter abstract

Nature Physics 2, 749 - 753 (2006)

Subject Categories: Optical physics | Plasma physics | Techniques and instrumentation

Snapshots of laser wakefields

N. H. Matlis1, S. Reed2, S. S. Bulanov2, V. Chvykov2, G. Kalintchenko2, T. Matsuoka2, P. Rousseau2, V. Yanovsky2, A. Maksimchuk2, S. Kalmykov1, G. Shvets1 and M. C. Downer1


Tabletop plasma accelerators can now produce GeV-range electron beams1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and femtosecond X-ray pulses6, providing compact radiation sources for medicine, nuclear engineering, materials science and high-energy physics7. In these accelerators, electrons surf on electric fields exceeding 100 GeV m-1, which is more than 1,000 times stronger than achievable in conventional accelerators. These fields are generated within plasma structures (such as Langmuir waves8 or electron density 'bubbles'9) propagating near light speed behind laser2, 3, 4 or charged-particle5 driving pulses. Here, we demonstrate single-shot visualization of laser-wakefield accelerator structures for the first time. Our 'snapshots' capture the evolution of multiple wake periods, detect structure variations as laser–plasma parameters change, and resolve wavefront curvature; features never previously observed.

  1. FOCUS Center, Department of Physics, University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station C1600, Austin, Texas 78712-1081, USA
  2. FOCUS Center and Center for Ultrafast Optical Science, University of Michigan, 2200 Bonisteel Blvd, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA

Correspondence to: N. H. Matlis1 e-mail: matlis@physics.utexas.edu

Correspondence to: M. C. Downer1 e-mail: downer@physics.utexas.edu


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