Relativistic laser pulse focusing and self-compression in stratified plasma-vacuum systems

Karle, Ch.; Spatschek, K. H.
December 2008
Physics of Plasmas;Dec2008, Vol. 15 Issue 12, p123102
Academic Journal
Laser pulse compression in plasma-vacuum systems is investigated in the weakly relativistic regime. First, within one-dimensional hydrodynamic models, the basic features of propagation in plasmas, like width and amplitude changes, are demonstrated. The numerical findings can be interpreted, in part, a by simplified model based on the variation of action method. Since transverse effects like filamentation do play a significant role, the numerical evaluations are then generalized to two-dimensional situations. An approximate analytical criterion for the dominating transverse wave number during laser propagation in plasmas is presented. Finite plasma-vacuum systems show in addition to the filamentation instability the so-called plasma lens effect. The latter is first demonstrated for a single plasma layer. It is then discussed how (i) longitudinal and transversal self-compression in plasmas, (ii) focusing by a plasma layer, and (iii) cleaning of unstable modes compete with each other in layered plasma-vacuum systems. Depending on the available parameters, optimized plasma-vacuum systems are proposed for pulse compression. Such systems can be used as a substitute for hollow fibers which are in use to shorten a pulse. Pulse lengths of one or two cycles can be reached by optimized plasma-vacuum systems, while attaining ultrarelativistic intensities in the focal spot behind the system of layers.


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