Research Papers in Physics and Astronomy

 

Date of this Version

2016

Citation

PHYSICAL REVIEW ACCELERATORS AND BEAMS 19, 101301 (2016)

Comments

Published by the American Physical Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

Abstract

Petawatt, picosecond laser pulses offer rich opportunities in generating synchrotron x-rays. This paper concentrates on the regimes accessible with the PETAL laser, which is a part of the Laser Megajoule (LMJ) facility. We explore two physically distinct scenarios through Particle-in-Cell simulations. The first one realizes in a dense plasma, such that the period of electron Langmuir oscillations is much shorter than the pulse duration. Hallmarks of this regime are longitudinal breakup (“self-modulation”) of the picosecond-scale laser pulse and excitation of a rapidly evolving broken plasma wake. It is found that electron beams with a charge of several tens of nCcan be obtained, with a quasi-Maxwellian energy distribution extending to a few-GeVlevel. In the second scenario, at lower plasma densities, the pulse is shorter than the electron plasmaperiod. The pulse blows out plasma electrons, creating a single accelerating cavity, while injection on the density downramp creates a nC quasi-monoenergetic electron bunch within the cavity. This bunch accelerates without degradation beyond 1 GeV. The x-ray sources in the self-modulated regime offer a high number of photons (∼1012) with the slowly decaying energy spectra extending beyond 60 keV. In turn, quasimonoenergetic character of the electron beam in the blowout regime results in the synchrotron-like spectra with the critical energy around 10MeVand a number of photons> 109.Yet, much smaller source duration and transverse size increase the x-ray brilliance by more than an order of magnitude against the self-modulated case, also favoring high spatial and temporal resolution in x-ray imaging. In all explored cases, accelerated electrons emit synchrotron x-rays of high brilliance, B > 1020 photons/s/mm2/mrad2/0.1%BW. Synchrotron sources driven by picosecond kilojoule lasers may thus find an application in x-ray diagnostics on such facilities such as the LMJ or National Ignition Facility (NIF).

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