Abstract: In order to reach the highest intensities, modern laser systems use adaptive optics to control their beam quality. Ideally, the focal spot is optimized after the compression stage of the system in order to avoid spatio-temporal couplings. This also requires a wavefront sensor after the compressor, which should be able to measure the wavefront on-shot. At PHELIX, we have developed an ultra-compact post-compressor beam diagnostic due to strict space constraints, measuring the wavefront over the full aperture of 28 cm. This system features all-reflective imaging beam transport and a high dynamic range in order to measure the wavefront in alignment mode as well as on shot.
Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, Physikalisch-Astronomische Fakultät (2021)
Abstract: The aim of this work was to develop a new diagnostic method to probe preplasma properties in laser-plasma interaction experiments, using the time-resolved measurement of the laser pulse reflected by the plasma. Its spectral change over time can be attributed to the motion of the critical-density position of the plasma, which can be correlated with the preplasma properties that are present at the beginning of the interaction. 2-D particle-in-cell (PIC) simulations showed a correlation between the blue shift of the spectrum at the temporal beginning of the laser pulse and the expansion velocity of the preplasma, which can be used to derive the corresponding electron temperature. In addition, a correlation between the acceleration of the reflection point into the plasma and the density scale length has been observed. This has also been confirmed by an analytical description of the holeboring velocity and acceleration, which has been developed to include the effect of the preplasma scale length. To verify this method, two experimental campaigns were performed at the PHELIX laser system, while employing different temporal contrasts using so-called plasma mirrors. The experimental observations matched the predictions made by the numerical simulations. By comparing the maximum red shift of the spectrum with the results of the analytical description, the scale length of the preplasma was determined to be (0.18+-0.11) m and (0.83+-0.39) m with and without plasma mirror, respectively. At last, two further experimental campaigns to improve laser-ion acceleration at PHELIX were carried out. First, by increasing the laser absorption during the interaction using a p-polarized laser pulse and second, by increasing the laser intensity. The latter led to the generation of protons with a maximum energy of up to 93 MeV, for a laser intensity in the range of 8e20 W/cm^2, resulting in a new record for the laser system PHELIX.
Abstract: We present a study of laser-driven ion acceleration with micrometre and sub-micrometre thick targets, which focuses on the enhancement of the maximum proton energy and the total number of accelerated particles at the PHELIX facility. Using laser pulses with a nanosecond temporal contrast of up to and an intensity of the order of, proton energies up to 93 MeV are achieved. Additionally, the conversion efficiency at incidence angle was increased when changing the laser polarization to p, enabling similar proton energies and particle numbers as in the case of normal incidence and s-polarization, but reducing the debris on the last focusing optic.
Abstract: The on-going developments in laser acceleration of protons and light ions, as well as the production of strong bursts of neutrons and multi-MeV photons by secondary processes now provide a basis for novel high-flux nuclear physics experiments. While the maximum energy of protons resulting from Target Normal Sheath Acceleration is presently still limited to around 100MeV, the generated proton peak flux within the short laser-accelerated bunches can already today exceed the values achievable at the most advanced conventional accelerators by orders of magnitude. This paper consists of two parts covering the scientific motivation and relevance of such experiments and a first proof-of-principle demonstration. In the presented experiment pulses of 200J at ≈500fs duration from the PHELIX laser produced more than 10 12 protons with energies above 15MeV in a bunch of sub-nanosecond duration. They were used to induce fission in foil targets made of natural uranium. To make use of the nonpareil flux, these targets have to be very close to the laser acceleration source, since the particle density within the bunch is strongly affected by Coulomb explosion and the velocity differences between ions of different energy. The main challenge for nuclear detection with high-purity germanium detectors is given by the strong electromagnetic pulse caused by the laser-matter interaction close to the laser acceleration source. This was mitigated by utilizing fast transport of the fission products by a gas flow to a carbon filter, where the γ -rays were registered. The identified nuclides include those that have half-lives down to 39s. These results demonstrate the capability to produce, extract, and detect short-lived reaction products under the demanding experimental condition imposed by the high-power laser interaction. The approach promotes research towards relevant nuclear astrophysical studies at conditions currently only accessible at nuclear high energy density laser facilities.
Abstract: In this work, we present the results of an experiment aiming at proton acceleration using a focus with a homogeneous intensity distribution, called smoothed focus. To achieve this goal, we implemented a phase plate before the pre-amplifier of the Petawatt High-Energy Laser for Heavy Ion EXperiments laser facility. The phase plate was used for the first time at a high-power short-pulse laser. Demonstrating a low divergent ion beam was the main goal of this work. Numerical simulations using the particle-in-cell code Extendable PIC Open Collaboration estimated a 2–5 times reduction in the angular divergence of the proton beam using a phase plate due to a smoother sheath at the rear side of the target. However, the reduction in the angular divergence was not sensible according to the experimental data. A positive point is that the spectrum of protons that are generated with the smoothed beam is shifted toward lower energies, provided that the laser absorption is kept in check, compared to the Gaussian proton spectrum. Moreover, the number of protons that are generated with the smoothed beam is higher than the ones generated with the Gaussian beam.
Abstract: We propose and demonstrate the use of random phase plates (RPPs) for high-energy sub-picosecond lasers. Contrarily to previous work related to nanosecond lasers, an RPP poses technical challenges with ultrashort-pulse lasers. Here, we implement the RPP near the beginning of the amplifier and image-relay it throughout the laser amplifier. With this, we obtain a uniform intensity distribution in the focus over an area 1600 times the diffraction limit. This method shows no significant drawbacks for the laser and it has been implemented at the PHELIX laser facility where it is now available for users.
Abstract: Laser-driven neutrons are generated by the conversion of laser-accelerated ions via nuclear reactions inside a converter material. We present results from an experimental campaign at the PHELIX laser at GSI in Darmstadt where protons and deuterons were accelerated from thin deuterated plastic foils with thicknesses in the μm and sub-μm range. The neutrons were generated inside a sandwich-type beryllium converter, leading to reproducible neutron numbers around 10^11 neutrons per shot. The angular distribution was measured with a high level of detail using up to 30 bubble detectors simultaneously. It shows a laser forward directed component of up to 1.42 × 10^10 neutrons per steradian, corresponding to a dose of 43 mrem scaled to a distance of 1 m from the converter.