Relativistic laser-plasma physics and advanced plasma optics

Lead Research Organisation: University of Strathclyde
Department Name: Physics


Due to their compact nature and unique properties, intense laser-driven particle and radiation sources have transformative potential for application in many areas of science and society. Central to the development of this enabling technology is the exploitation of nonlinear optical phenomena that are produced when plasma electrons interacting with the laser gain relativistic velocities. These physical processes will dominate light-matter interactions at next-generation laser facilities, e.g. the extreme light infrastructure (ELI).
The project involves a programme of experiments and coupled simulations to investigate relativistic laser-plasma interaction phenomena, and their use in controlling charged particle and radiation generation, in ultrathin foil targets irradiated by ultraintense laser pulses. It will also involve the development and application of advanced designs for plasma optics, including ellipsoidal reflective surfaces to tightly focus relativistically intense laser light. The project exploits recent breakthroughs by our team, including relativistic transparency in ultrathin foils (Nature Physics 12, 505 (2016)) and its use in manipulating plasma particle motion (Nature Communications, 7, 12891 (2016)) and acceleration physics (Nature Communications, At press (2018)). It will explore the physics underpinning the development of relativistic plasma photonics, to enable tuneable spatial, temporal and polarisation control of laser pulses at ultrahigh intensity.
The project involves experimental investigations using the new 350TW SCAPA laser in Physics and external lasers at the Central Laser Facility in Oxfordshire. It also involves simulations of intense laser-plasma interactions using the ARCHER and ARCHIE-WeSt high performance computers.
The objectives are:
1. Investigate the influence of a relativistic plasma aperture on the properties of ultraintense laser light
2. Investigate the potential to control field evolution and particle acceleration in relativistically transparent targets.


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