Date of this Version
PHYSICS OF PLASMAS VOLUME 10, NUMBER 5 MAY 2003
The first optical trap capable of confining relativistic electrons, with kinetic energy <350 keV was created by the interference of spatially and temporally overlapping terawatt power, 400 fs duration laser pulses (<2.4x1018 W/cm2) in plasma. Analysis and computer simulation predicted that the plasma density was greatly modulated, reaching a peak density up to 10 times the background density (ne /n0;10) at the interference minima. Associated with this charge displacement, a direct-current electrostatic field of strength of ~2 x 1011 eV/m was excited. These predictions were confirmed experimentally by Thomson and Raman scattering diagnostics. Also confirmed were predictions that the electron density grating acted as a multi-layer mirror to transfer energy between the crossed laser beams, resulting in the power of the weaker laser beam being nearly 50% increased. Furthermore, it was predicted that the optical trap acted to heat electrons, increasing their temperature by two orders of magnitude. The experimental results showed that the number of high energy electrons accelerated along the direction of one of the laser beams was enhanced by a factor of 3 and electron temperature was increased ~100 keV as compared with single-beam illumination.