High-order multiphoton Thomson scattering


Electron–photon scattering, or Thomson scattering, is one of the most fundamental mechanisms in electrodynamics, underlying laboratory and astrophysical sources of high-energy X-rays. After a century of studies, it is only recently that sufficiently high electromagnetic field strengths have been available to experimentally study the nonlinear regime of Thomson scattering in the laboratory. Making use of a high-power laser and a laser-driven electron accelerator, we made the first measurements of high-order multiphoton scattering, in which more than 500 near-infrared laser photons were scattered by a single electron into a single X-ray photon. Both the electron motion and the scattered photons were found to depend nonlinearly on field strength. The observed angular distribution of scattered X-rays permits independent measurement of absolute intensity, in situ, during interactions of ultra-intense laser light with free electrons. Furthermore, the experiment's potential to generate attosecond-duration hard X-ray pulses can enable the study of ultrafast nuclear dynamics.

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Figure 1: Schematic of the experimental set-up used to study multiphoton TS.
Figure 2: Spatial characteristics of X-rays generated by multiphoton Thomson back-scattering.
Figure 3: Origin of diamond-shaped spatial profile of the scattered X-rays from multiphoton TS.
Figure 4: Angular dependence of X-ray energy distribution for low-order and high-order TS.
Figure 5: Dependence of the Thomson X-ray spectrum on the nonlinearity of the laser–electron interaction.
Figure 6: Scaling of total radiated power and on-axis solid-angle radiated power dP/dΩ.


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The authors thank K. Brown, J. Mills, C. Petersen, N. Glasco, A. Okelberry, P. Mood and B. Nordell for their contributions. This work was supported primarily by the Air Force Office for Scientific Research, award number FA9550-14-1-0345. Additional support provided by the National Science Foundation, grant no. PHY-1535700 (ultra-low emittance electron beams); the US Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences (BES), award no. DE-FG02-05ER15663 (ultrafast X-ray science); and the Department of Homeland Security Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, competitively awarded contract HSHQDC-13-C-B0036 (low-dose X-ray radiography). This support does not constitute an express or implied endorsement on the part of the Government. M.C. acknowledges the support from the National Science Foundation of China (grant no. 11374209,11421064). Simulations were performed on the Π super computer at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. The authors also thank M. Fuchs from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln and Z.-M. Sheng from Shanghai Jiao Tong University and University of Strathclyde for useful discussions.

Author information

The experiments were conceived and designed by D.U., W.Y., S.B. and S.C. Experiments were performed by W.Y., C.F., D.H., G.G., P.Z., J.Z., B.Z. and C.L. Data was analysed by G.G., W.Y., D.H. and C.F. Simulation effort was provided by M.C., J.L., C.F. and S.C. The manuscript was written by D.U., W.Y., S.B., G.G., S.C. and M.C.

Correspondence to Donald Umstadter.

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Yan, W., Fruhling, C., Golovin, G. et al. High-order multiphoton Thomson scattering. Nature Photon 11, 514–520 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/nphoton.2017.100

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