Ultra-intense laser-plasma interaction for applied and fundamental physics

University dissertation from Umeå : Umeå University

Abstract: Rapid progress in ultra-intense laser technology has resulted in intensity levels surpassing 1022 W/cm2, reaching the highest possible density of electromagnetic energy amongst all controlled sources available in the laboratory. During recent decades, fast growth in available intensity has stimulated numerous studies based on the use of high intensity lasers as a unique tool for the initiation of nonlinear behavior in various basic systems: first molecules and atoms, then plasma resulting from the ionization of gases and solids, and, finally, pure vacuum. Apart from their fundamental importance, these studies reveal various mechanisms for the conversion of a laser pulse's energy into other forms, opening up new possibilities for generating beams of energetic particles and radiation with tailored properties. In particular, the cheapness and compactness of laser based sources of energetic protons are expected to make a revolution in medicine and industry. In this thesis we study nonlinear phenomena in the process of laser radiation interacting with plasmas of ionized targets. We develop advanced numerical tools and use them for the simulation of laser-plasma interactions in various configurations relating to both current and proposed experiments. Phenomenological analysis of numerical results helps us to reveal several new effects, understand the physics behind them and develop related theoretical models capable of making general conclusions and predictions. We develop target designs to use studied effects for charged particle acceleration and for the generation of attosecond pulses of unprecedented intensity. Finally, we analyze prospects for experimental activity at the upcoming international high intensity laser facilities and uncover a basic effect of anomalous radiative trapping, which opens up new possibilities for fundamental science.