Coupling of laser energy into plasma channels

Dimitrov, D. A.; Giacone, R. E.; Bruhwiler, D. L.; Busby, R.; Cary, J. R.; Geddes, C. G. R.; Esarey, E.; Leemans, W. P.
April 2007
Physics of Plasmas;Apr2007, Vol. 14 Issue 4, p043105
Academic Journal
Diffractive spreading of a laser pulse imposes severe limitations on the acceleration length and maximum electron energy in the laser wake field accelerator (LWFA). Optical guiding of a laser pulse via plasma channels can extend the laser-plasma interaction distance over many Rayleigh lengths. Energy efficient coupling of laser pulses into and through plasma channels is very important for optimal LWFA performance. Results from simulation parameter studies on channel guiding using the particle-in-cell (PIC) code VORPAL [C. Nieter and J. R. Cary, J. Comput. Phys. 196, 448 (2004)] are presented and discussed. The effects that density ramp length and the position of the laser pulse focus have on coupling into channels are considered. Moreover, the effect of laser energy leakage out of the channel domain and the effects of tunneling ionization of a neutral gas on the guided laser pulse are also investigated. Power spectral diagnostics were developed and used to separate pump depletion from energy leakage. The results of these simulations show that increasing the density ramp length decreases the efficiency of coupling a laser pulse to a channel and increases the energy loss when the pulse is vacuum focused at the channel entrance. Then, large spot size oscillations result in increased energy leakage. To further analyze the coupling, a differential equation is derived for the laser spot size evolution in the plasma density ramp and channel profiles are simulated. From the numerical solution of this equation, the optimal spot size and location for coupling into a plasma channel with a density ramp are determined. This result is confirmed by the PIC simulations. They show that specifying a vacuum focus location of the pulse in front of the top of the density ramp leads to an actual focus at the top of the ramp due to plasma focusing, resulting in reduced spot size oscillations. In this case, the leakage is significantly reduced and is negligibly affected by ramp length, allowing for efficient use of channels with long ramps.


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