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Higher energies for laser-accelerated particles possible
Date:7/2/2012

ndicularly to the foil's surface, just like previous models predict. But that is not the case with a tilted laser pulse. If the angle of the thin light disk is slightly tilted with respect to the axis of propagation, something unexpected happens during the first phase of the particle acceleration. The electrons feel the rotation of the light disk and follow the direction in which the light hits the foil. Moreover, protons are accelerated along this direction as well and, in contrast to the electrons, maintain their direction. This novel observation of the directional dependence permits the Dresden physicists to also look directly at the underlying acceleration process.

"During the first acceleration phase, the distance between the electrons and the foil is extremely small. Once the short laser pulse has pushed them through the foil, they immediately swing back again because the foil has a positive charge. That is one reason why we were very surprised to discover that not only the electrons follow the motion of the laser light, but also the protons exhibit this previously unknown directional dependence," notes the doctoral candidate and main author of the current publication, Karl Zeil. He managed to detect another particular feature which only occurs with ultra-short laser pulses: The initial phase is decisive for the entire acceleration process. During the first 30 femtoseconds that is, one millionth of one billionth of a second, and equal to the length of the laser pulse the acceleration is very efficient. The short and efficient acceleration phase is followed by a longer expansion phase, during which a uniform and symmetrical plasma cloud is formed. The protons, however, gain so much energy during the first phase which, in turn, makes them so fast that they finally can reach higher energies than conventional models would predict.

Precisely how the fast electrons oscillate around the foil, and thus, accelerate the protons, is investigated by t
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Contact: Anja Weigl
a.weigl@hzdr.de
49-351-260-2452
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert  

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