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.
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $4.92 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Thomson, J. J. On electrical oscillations and the effects produced by the motion of an electrified sphere. Proc. Lond. Math. Soc. 1, 197–219 (1883).
Evans, D. E. & Katzenstein, J. Laser light scattering in laboratory plasmas. Rep. Prog. Phys. 32, 207–271 (1969).
Longair, M. S. High-Energy Astrophysics (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2011).
Prunty, S. A primer on the theory of Thomson scattering for high-temperature fusion plasmas. Phys. Scripta 89, 128001 (2014).
Glenzer, S. H. & Redmer, R. X-ray Thomson scattering in high energy density plasmas. Rev. Mod. Phys. 81, 1625–1663 (2009).
Leemans, W. et al. X-ray based subpicosecond electron bunch characterization using 90° Thomson scattering. Phys. Rev. Lett. 77, 4182–4185 (1996).
Powers, N. D. et al. Quasi-monoenergetic and tunable X-rays from a laser-driven Compton light source. Nat. Photon. 8, 28–31 (2014).
Chen, S. et al. MeV-energy X rays from inverse Compton scattering with laser-wakefield accelerated electrons. Phys. Rev. Lett. 110, 155003 (2013).
Schwoerer, H., Liesfeld, B., Schlenvoigt, H., Amthor, K. & Sauerbrey, R. Thomson-backscattered X rays from laser-accelerated electrons. Phys. Rev. Lett. 96, 014802 (2006).
Albert, F. & Thomas, A. G. Applications of laser wakefield accelerator-based light sources. Plasma Phys. Control. Fusion 58, 103001 (2016).
Corde, S. et al. Femtosecond X rays from laser-plasma accelerators. Rev. Mod. Phys. 85, 1–48 (2013).
Rousse, A. et al. Production of a keV X-ray beam from synchrotron radiation in relativistic laser-plasma interaction. Phys. Rev. Lett. 93, 135005 (2004).
Terzić, B., Deitrick, K., Hofler, A. S. & Krafft, G. A. Narrow-band emission in Thomson sources operating in the high-field regime. Phys. Rev. Lett. 112, 074801 (2014).
Nakano, T. et al. Multi-GeV laser-electron photon project at SPring-8. Nucl. Phys. A 684, 71–79 (2001).
Strickland, D. & Mourou, G. Compression of amplified chirped optical pulses. Opt. Commun. 55, 447–449 (1985).
Bahk, S. et al. Generation and characterization of the highest laser intensities (1022 W/cm2). Opt. Lett. 29, 2837–2839 (2004).
Chen, S., Maksimchuk, A. & Umstadter, D. Experimental observation of relativistic nonlinear Thomson scattering. Nature 396, 653–655 (1998).
Babzien, M. et al. Observation of the second harmonic in Thomson scattering from relativistic electrons. Phys. Rev. Lett. 96, 054802 (2006).
Sarri, G. et al. Ultrahigh brilliance multi-MeV γ-ray beams from nonlinear relativistic Thomson scattering. Phys. Rev. Lett. 113, 224801 (2014).
Khrennikov, K. et al. Tunable all-optical quasimonochromatic Thomson X-ray source in the nonlinear regime. Phys. Rev. Lett. 114, 195003 (2015).
Phuoc, K. T. et al. All-optical Compton gamma-ray source. Nat. Photon. 6, 308–311 (2012).
Sakai, Y. et al. Observation of red shifting and harmonic radiation in inverse Compton scattering. Phys. Rev. Spec. Top. Accel. Beams 18, 060702 (2015).
Lau, Y. Y., He, F., Umstadter, D. P. & Kowalczyk, R. Nonlinear Thomson scattering: a tutorial. Phys. Plasmas 10, 2155–2162 (2003).
Wiedemann, H. Particle Accelerator Physics (Springer, 2015).
Sarachik, E. S. & Schappert, G. T. Classical theory of the scattering of intense laser radiation by free electrons. Phys. Rev. D 1, 2738–2753 (1970).
Esarey, E., Ride, S. K. & Sprangle, P. Nonlinear Thomson scattering of intense laser pulses from beams and plasmas. Phys. Rev. E 48, 3003–3021 (1993).
Koga, J., Esirkepov, T. Z. & Bulanov, S. V. Nonlinear Thomson scattering in the strong radiation damping regime. Phys. Plasmas 12, 093106 (2005).
Rykovanov, S., Geddes, C., Schroeder, C., Esarey, E. & Leemans, W. Controlling the spectral shape of nonlinear Thomson scattering with proper laser chirping. Phys. Rev. Accel. Beams 19, 030701 (2016).
Di Piazza, A., Müller, C., Hatsagortsyan, K. Z. & Keitel, C. H. Extremely high-intensity laser interactions with fundamental quantum systems. Rev. Mod. Phys. 84, 1177–1228 (2012).
Quesnel, B. & Mora, P. Theory and simulation of the interaction of ultraintense laser pulses with electrons in vacuum. Phys. Rev. E 58, 3719–3732 (1998).
Tajima, T. & Dawson, J. Laser electron accelerator. Phys. Rev. Lett. 43, 267–270 (1979).
Esarey, E., Schroeder, C. & Leemans, W. Physics of laser-driven plasma-based electron accelerators. Rev. Mod. Phys. 81, 1229–1285 (2009).
Har-Shemesh, O. & Di Piazza, A. Peak intensity measurement of relativistic lasers via nonlinear Thomson scattering. Opt. Lett. 37, 1352–1354 (2012).
Pariente, G., Gallet, V., Borot, A., Gobert, O. & Quéré, F. Space–time characterization of ultra-intense femtosecond laser beams. Nat. Photon. 10, 547–553 (2016).
Heinzl, T., Seipt, D. & Kaempfer, B. Beam-shape effects in nonlinear Compton and Thomson scattering. Phys. Rev. A 81, 022125 (2010).
Chen, M. et al. Modeling classical and quantum radiation from laser-plasma accelerators. Phys. Rev. Spec. Top. Accel. Beams 16, 030701 (2013).
Jochmann, A. et al. High resolution energy-angle correlation measurement of hard X rays from laser-Thomson backscattering. Phys. Rev. Lett. 111, 114803 (2013).
Thomas, A., Ridgers, C., Bulanov, S., Griffin, B. & Mangles, S. Strong radiation-damping effects in a gamma-ray source generated by the interaction of a high-intensity laser with a wakefield-accelerated electron beam. Phys. Rev. X 2, 041004 (2012).
Vranic, M., Martins, J. L., Vieira, J., Fonseca, R. A. & Silva, L. O. All-optical radiation reaction at 1021 W/cm2. Phys. Rev. Lett. 113, 134801 (2014).
Hartemann, F. V. et al. High-intensity scattering processes of relativistic electrons in vacuum and their relevance to high-energy astrophysics. Astrophys. J. Suppl. Ser. 127, 347–356 (2000).
Bednarek, W., Kirk, J. & Mastichiadis, A. Production of gamma-rays by inverse Compton scattering in jets. Astron. Astrophys. Suppl. Ser. 120, 571–574 (1996).
Sambruna, R. M. et al. The high-energy continuum emission of the gamma-ray blazar PKS 0528 134. Astrophys. J. 474, 639–649 (1997).
Stewart, P. & Sweeney, G. Collective relaxation of ultra-relativistic plasmas. Astron. Astrophys. 44, 1–7 (1975).
Li, J., Hatsagortsyan, K. Z., Galow, B. J. & Keitel, C. H. Attosecond gamma-ray pulses via nonlinear Compton scattering in the radiation-dominated regime. Phys. Rev. Lett. 115, 204801 (2015).
Luo, W. et al. Generation of bright attosecond X-ray pulse trains via Thomson scattering from laser-plasma accelerators. Opt. Express 22, 32098–32106 (2014).
Chung, S., Yoon, M. & Kim, D. E. Generation of attosecond X-ray and gamma-ray via Compton backscattering. Opt. Express 17, 7853–7861 (2009).
Wu, H. & Meyer-ter-Vehn, J. Giant half-cycle attosecond pulses. Nat. Photon. 6, 304–307 (2012).
Hartemann, F. V. et al. Nonlinear ponderomotive scattering of relativistic electrons by an intense laser field at focus. Phys. Rev. E 51, 4833–4843 (1995).
Umstadter, D. Method of aligning a laser-based radiation source. US patent 9,485,847 (2016).
Harvey, C., Heinzl, T. & Ilderton, A. Signatures of high-intensity Compton scattering. Phys. Rev. A 79, 063407 (2009).
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.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
About this article
Cite this article
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
Physical Review A (2021)
Quasi-monochromatic spectral emission characteristics from electron collision with tightly focused laser pulses
Laser Physics (2021)
Physica Scripta (2021)
Physics of Wave Phenomena (2021)
Complementary diagnostics of high-intensity femtosecond laser pulses via vacuum acceleration of protons and electrons
Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion (2021)