Article | Published:

Vacuum laser acceleration of relativistic electrons using plasma mirror injectors

Nature Physics volume 12, pages 355360 (2016) | Download Citation

Abstract

Accelerating particles to relativistic energies over very short distances using lasers has been a long-standing goal in physics. Among the various schemes proposed for electrons, vacuum laser acceleration has attracted considerable interest and has been extensively studied theoretically because of its appealing simplicity: electrons interact with an intense laser field in vacuum and can be continuously accelerated, provided they remain at a given phase of the field until they escape the laser beam. But demonstrating this effect experimentally has proved extremely challenging, as it imposes stringent requirements on the conditions of injection of electrons in the laser field. Here, we solve this long-standing experimental problem by using a plasma mirror to inject electrons in an ultraintense laser field, and obtain clear evidence of vacuum laser acceleration. With the advent of petawatt lasers, this scheme could provide a competitive source of very high charge (nC) and ultrashort relativistic electron beams.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1.

    et al. Generation of high-contrast, 30 fs, 1.5 PW laser pulses from chirped-pulse amplification Ti:sapphire laser. Opt. Express 20, 10807–10815 (2012).

  2. 2.

    , & Physics of laser-driven plasma-based electron accelerators. Rev. Mod. Phys. 81, 1229–1285 (2009).

  3. 3.

    et al. Nonlinear ponderomotive scattering of relativistic electrons by an intense laser field at focus. Phys. Rev. E 51, 4833–4843 (1995).

  4. 4.

    , & Laser acceleration of electrons in vacuum. Phys. Rev. E 52, 5443–5453 (1995).

  5. 5.

    et al. Ponderomotive acceleration of electrons at the focus of high intensity lasers. Phys. Rev. E 61, R2220–R2223 (2000).

  6. 6.

    & Ponderomotive laser acceleration and focusing in vacuum for generation of attosecond electron bunches. Phys. Rev. Lett. 86, 5274–5277 (2001).

  7. 7.

    & Electron acceleration by a tightly focused laser beam. Phys. Rev. Lett. 88, 095005 (2002).

  8. 8.

    et al. Subluminous phase velocity of a focused laser beam and vacuum laser acceleration. Phys. Rev. E 66, 066501 (2002).

  9. 9.

    & Relativistic electron acceleration in focused laser fields after above-threshold ionization. Phys. Rev. E 68, 056402 (2003).

  10. 10.

    & Above threshold ionization in tightly focused, strongly relativistic laser fields. Phys. Rev. Lett. 90, 053002 (2003).

  11. 11.

    & Relativistic attosecond electron pulses from a free-space laser-acceleration scheme. Phys. Rev. E 74, 045602 (2006).

  12. 12.

    , & Experimental observation of electrons accelerated in vacuum to relativistic energies by a high-intensity laser. Phys. Rev. Lett. 78, 3314–3317 (1997).

  13. 13.

    , & Photoelectron initial conditions for tunneling ionization in a linearly polarized laser. Phys. Rev. A 58, 1399–1411 (1998).

  14. 14.

    et al. A laser-accelerator injector based on laser ionization and ponderomotive acceleration of electrons. Phys. Rev. Lett. 82, 1688–1691 (1999).

  15. 15.

    et al. Generation of a beam of fast electrons by tightly focusing a radially polarized ultrashort laser pulse. Appl. Phys. Lett. 101, 041105 (2012).

  16. 16.

    et al. First observation of acceleration of electrons by a laser in a vacuum. J. Mod. Phys. 4, 1–6 (1, 2013).

  17. 17.

    et al. Direct laser acceleration of electrons in free-space. Preprint at (2015).

  18. 18.

    & Comment on “Experimental observation of electrons accelerated in vacuum to relativistic energies by a high-intensity laser”. Phys. Rev. Lett. 80, 1351 (1998).

  19. 19.

    Comment on “Experimental observation of electrons accelerated in vacuum to relativistic energies by a high-intensity laser”. Phys. Rev. Lett. 80, 1350 (1998).

  20. 20.

    & Relativistic particle motion in nonuniform electromagnetic waves. Phys. Rev. Lett. 31, 1380–1383 (1973).

  21. 21.

    & Multiple scale derivation of the relativistic ponderomotive force. Phys. Rev. E 55, 7527–7535 (1997).

  22. 22.

    & Theory and simulation of the interaction of ultra-intense laser pulses with electrons in vacuum. Phys. Rev. E 58, 3719–3732 (1998).

  23. 23.

    et al. Plasma mirrors for ultrahigh-intensity optics. Nature Phys. 3, 424–429 (2007).

  24. 24.

    et al. Complete characterization of a plasma mirror for the production of high-contrast ultraintense laser pulses. Phys. Rev. E 69, 026402 (2004).

  25. 25.

    et al. Optical properties of relativistic plasma mirrors. Nature Commun. 5, 3403 (2014).

  26. 26.

    et al. Fast focusing of short-pulse lasers by innovative plasma optics toward extreme intensity. Opt. Lett. 35, 2314–2316 (2010).

  27. 27.

    et al. High harmonic generation in the relativistic limit. Nature Phys. 2, 456–459 (2006).

  28. 28.

    et al. Attosecond lighthouses from plasma mirrors. Nature Photon. 6, 829–833 (2012).

  29. 29.

    et al. Attosecond electron bunches. Phys. Rev. Lett. 93, 195003 (2004).

  30. 30.

    , & Electron vacuum acceleration in a regime beyond Brunel absorption. Phys. Rev. Lett. 104, 135001 (2010).

  31. 31.

    et al. Electron emission at locked phases from the laser-driven surface plasma wave. Phys. Rev. Lett. 109, 115002 (2012).

  32. 32.

    et al. Experimental study for angular distribution of the hot electrons generated by femtosecond laser interaction with solid targets. Phys. Plasmas 10, 3265–3269 (2003).

  33. 33.

    et al. Quasimonoenergetic electron beams with relativistic energies and ultrashort duration from laser-solid interactions at 0.5 kHz. Phys. Rev. Lett. 103, 235001 (2009).

  34. 34.

    et al. Directed acceleration of electrons from a solid surface by sub-10-fs laser pulses. Phys. Rev. Lett. 102, 195001 (2009).

  35. 35.

    et al. Angular and energy distribution of fast electrons emitted from a solid surface irradiated by femtosecond laser pulses in various conditions. Phys. Plasmas 17, 023108 (2010).

  36. 36.

    et al. Double plasma mirror for ultrahigh temporal contrast ultraintense laser pulses. Opt. Lett. 32, 310–312 (2007).

  37. 37.

    et al. Direct observation of density-gradient effects in harmonic generation from plasma mirrors. Phys. Rev. Lett. 110, 175001 (2013).

  38. 38.

    et al. Absolute calibration for a broad range single shot electron spectrometer. Rev. Sci. Instrum. 77, 103301 (2006).

  39. 39.

    & High-order harmonic and attosecond pulse generation on plasma mirrors: Basic mechanisms. J. Phys. B 43, 213001 (2010).

  40. 40.

    et al. Field properties and vacuum electron acceleration in a laser beam of high-order Laguerre–Gaussian mode. Opt. Commun. 281, 4103–4108 (2008).

  41. 41.

    , , & Sub-cycle control of attosecond pulse generation using two-colour laser fields. J. Phys. B 42, 134003 (2009).

  42. 42.

    , & Enhanced attosecond bursts of relativistic high-order harmonics driven by two-color fields. Opt. Lett. 39, 6823–6826 (2014).

  43. 43.

    , & Relativistic AC gyromagnetic effects in ultraintense laser–matter interaction. Phys. Rev. Lett. 97, 085001 (2006).

  44. 44.

    Oblique incidence of a strong electromagnetic wave on a cold inhomogeneous electron plasma. Relativistic effects. Phys. Fluids 26, 1804–1807 (1983).

  45. 45.

    , & Longitudinal field components for laser beams in vacuum. Phys. Rev. A 41, 3727–3732 (1990).

Download references

Acknowledgements

We are grateful to P. d’Oliveira, F. Réau, C. Pothier and D. Garzella for operating the UHI100 laser source. This work was funded by the European Research Council under Contract No. 306708, ERC Starting Grant FEMTOELEC, the Agence Nationale pour la Recherche under contract ANR-14-CE32-0011-03 APERO and LASERLAB-EUROPE (grant agreement no. 284464, EC’s Seventh Framework Programme) through the CHARPAC Joint Research Action. We acknowledge the support of GENCI for access on super computer Curie. Simulations were run using EPOCH, which was developed as part of the UK EPSRC funded projects EP/G054940/1.

Author information

Author notes

    • M. Thévenet
    •  & A. Leblanc

    These authors contributed equally to this work.

Affiliations

  1. LOA, ENSTA ParisTech, CNRS, Ecole polytechnique, Université Paris-Saclay, 828 bd des Maréchaux, 91762 Palaiseau cedex, France

    • M. Thévenet
    • , H. Vincenti
    • , A. Vernier
    •  & J. Faure
  2. Lasers, Interactions and Dynamics Laboratory (LIDyL), Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique, Université Paris-Saclay, DSM/IRAMIS, CEN Saclay, 91191 Gif sur Yvette, France

    • A. Leblanc
    • , S. Kahaly
    •  & F. Quéré

Authors

  1. Search for M. Thévenet in:

  2. Search for A. Leblanc in:

  3. Search for S. Kahaly in:

  4. Search for H. Vincenti in:

  5. Search for A. Vernier in:

  6. Search for F. Quéré in:

  7. Search for J. Faure in:

Contributions

A.L. performed the experiment with S.K. and F.Q.; A.L. analysed the data; A.V. and J.F. calibrated the electron spectrometer. H.V. modified EPOCH for 1D boosted frame simulations. H.V. and M.T. performed the PIC simulations and developed the associated post-processing tools. M.T. developed and exploited the test particle model. All authors participated in the interpretation of the results. A.L. and M.T made the figures. F.Q. and J.F. designed and directed the project with equal contributions, and wrote the paper with inputs from the other authors.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to F. Quéré or J. Faure.

Supplementary information

PDF files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Information

Videos

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Movie 1

    Supplementary Movie

About this article

Publication history

Received

Accepted

Published

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nphys3597

Further reading