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Laser acceleration of quasi-monoenergetic MeV ion beams


Acceleration of particles by intense laser–plasma interactions represents a rapidly evolving field of interest, as highlighted by the recent demonstration1,2,3,4 of laser-driven relativistic beams of monoenergetic electrons. Ultrahigh-intensity lasers can produce accelerating fields of 10 TV m-1 (1 TV = 1012 V), surpassing those in conventional accelerators by six orders of magnitude. Laser-driven ions with energies of several MeV per nucleon have also been produced5,6,7,8,9. Such ion beams exhibit unprecedented characteristics—short pulse lengths, high currents and low transverse emittance10—but their exponential energy spectra have almost 100% energy spread. This large energy spread, which is a consequence of the experimental conditions used to date, remains the biggest impediment to the wider use of this technology. Here we report the production of quasi-monoenergetic laser-driven C5+ ions with a vastly reduced energy spread of 17%. The ions have a mean energy of 3 MeV per nucleon (full-width at half-maximum 0.5 MeV per nucleon) and a longitudinal emittance of less than 2 × 10-6 eV s for pulse durations shorter than 1 ps. Such laser-driven, high-current, quasi-monoenergetic ion sources may enable significant advances in the development of compact MeV ion accelerators11, new diagnostics12,13, medical physics14, inertial confinement fusion and fast ignition15,16,17.

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Figure 1: Experimental set-up.
Figure 2: Monoenergetic carbon ions from a 20 µm palladium substrate.
Figure 3: Changing the thickness of the carbon source layer leads to a change in the energy spectrum in the BILBO simulations.

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We acknowledge the expert support of the Trident laser team, especially R. Johnson, T. Ortiz and R. Gonzales, and the target fabrication support from LANL group MST-7, particularly R. Perea. This work was supported by the LANL Laboratory Directed Research & Development (LDRD) programme. One of the authors (H.R.) was supported by DOE/NNSA-UNR and another (J.S.) by DFG and BMBF. Author Contributions B.M.H. conceived the experiment, B.M.H., J.C., S.L. and J.C.F. executed the experiment, B.M.H., J.S., K.F. and J.C.F. analysed the data, H.R., B.J.A. and B.M.H. did the theory, M.P. and R.K.S. helped with the material science part and palladium surface chemistry, and B.M.H., B.J.A. and J.C.F. wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to B. M. Hegelich.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Movie

Schematic of laser ion acceleration (MOV 4028 kb)

Supplementary Figure 1

Schematic of monoenergetic laser ion acceleration (PDF 3668 kb)

Supplementary Figure 2

Photograph of an ion acceleration experiment (PDF 237 kb)

Supplementary Figure 3

Analysis of a W-target (PDF 2264 kb)

Supplementary Figure and Movie Legends

Text to accompany the above Supplementary Figures and Supplementary Movie. (DOC 30 kb)

Supplementary Notes

Additional notes on this study. (DOC 24 kb)

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Hegelich, B., Albright, B., Cobble, J. et al. Laser acceleration of quasi-monoenergetic MeV ion beams. Nature 439, 441–444 (2006).

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