The shaped critical surface in high intensity laser plasma interactions

Schumacher, D. W.; Kemp, G. E.; Link, A.; Freeman, R. R.; Van Woerkom, L. D.
January 2011
Physics of Plasmas;Jan2011, Vol. 18 Issue 1, p013102
Academic Journal
This paper describes an investigation of the properties of the relativistic critical surface in a high intensity laser-plasma interaction, specifically the spatial morphology of the surface and its effect upon the divergence of the reflected light. The particle-in-cell code LSP running in two dimensions (2d3v) was used to model the formation of the critical surface and to show that it resides at a varying depth into the material that is dependent on both the intensity radial dependence of the laser focus as well as the shape of the longitudinal vacuum-material interface. The result is a shaped 'mirror' surface that creates a reflected beam with phase and amplitude information informed by the extent of the preplasma present before the intense laser pulse arrived. A robust, highly effective means of experimentally determining the preplasma conditions for any high intensity laser-matter interaction is proposed using this effect. The important physics is elucidated with a simplified model that, within reasonable intensity bounds, recasts the effect of the complex laser-plasma interaction on the reflected beam into a standard Gaussian optics calculation.


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