Light-speed moving wakefield structure in a laser plasma accelerator is directly observed and quantitatively reconstructed using an ultrashort relativistic electron probe in a single shot. The stable electron probes utilized here are directly generated through laser wakefield acceleration via ionization injection. As the probe bunch traverses the wake, its momentum is modulated by the electric field of the wake, leading to a density variation of the probe after free-space propagation. From the density image of the probe, the local plasma wavelength, the wake width and the electric field in linear wakes can be accurately calculated, leading to the first observation of plasma wakes at the density as low as 1017 cm-3. Furthermore, detailed features of multiple wakes excited by a laser with the aberrated profile are observed and confirmed by 3D PIC simulations. By varying the time delay between the driving laser and the probe, time-resolved observation of the wake evolution (excitation, propagation, and damping) can be readily obtained, and this suggests that ultrafast electron probe can be a powerful new tool for the study of wakefield acceleration. The method is particularly well suited for visualizing linear wakefields that can accelerate both electrons and positrons as well as collective fields associated with shocks and instabilities in plasmas and warm dense matter.
Wei Lu and Jianfei Hua, "Probing plasma wakefield using femtosecond relativistic electron bunches (Conference Presentation)," Proc. SPIE 10240, Laser Acceleration of Electrons, Protons, and Ions IV, 102400J (Presented at SPIE Optics + Optoelectronics: April 25, 2017; Published: 9 June 2017); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2267277.5463398613001.
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