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Narrow Energy Spread Protons and Ions from High-Intensity, High-Contrast Laser Solid Target Interactions

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  • Franklin Dollar
  • Takeshi Matsuoka
  • Christopher McGuffey
  • Stepan S. Bulanov
  • Vladimir Chvykov
  • Jack Davis
  • Galina Kalintchenko
  • George Petrov
  • Alec G. R. Thomas
  • Louise Willingale
  • Victor Yanovsky
  • Anatoly Maksimchuk
  • Karl Krushelnick
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Abstract

Recent simulations show that an idealized, high intensity, short pulse laser can generate quasi-monoenergetic proton beams with energies over 100 MeV in an interaction with a thin film [1]. However, most short pulse laser facilities with sufficient intensity have difficulty controlling the nanosecond and picosecond contrast necessary to realize such a regime. Experiments were performed to investigate proton and ion acceleration from a high contrast, short pulse laser by employing dual plasma mirrors along with a deformable mirror at the HERCULES laser facility at the Center for Ultrafast Optical Sciences, University of Michigan. Plasma mirrors were characterized, allowing a 50% throughput with an intensity contrast increase of 10(5). The focal spot quality was also exceptional, showing a 1.1 micron full width at half maximum (FWHM) focal diameter. Experiments were done using temporally cleaned 30 TW, 32 fs pulses to achieve an intensity of up to 10(21)Wcm(-2) on Si(3)N(4) and Mylar targets with thicknesses ranging 50 nm to 13 microns. Proton beams with energy spreads below 2 MeV were observed from all thicknesses, peaking with energies up to 10.3 MeV and an energy spread of 0.8 MeV. Similar narrow energy spreads were observed for oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon at the silicon nitride thickness of 50 nm with energies up to 24 MeV with an energy spread of 3 MeV, whereas the energy spread is greatly increased at a larger thickness. Maximum energies were confirmed with CR39 track detectors, while a Thomson ion spectrometer was used to gauge the monoenergetic nature of the beam.