Experiments have been undertaken using the VEGA-3 petawatt laser system at the Centro de Láseres Pulsados (CLPU) facility in Salamanca to investigate electron and ion acceleration in under-dense plasma. The respective longitudinal and transverse fields of the ‘bubble’ structure of a laser wakefield accelerator (LWFA) simultaneously accelerates electrons to GeV energies, and ions to 100s keV/u to MeV/u energies. The laser is configured to produce two ultra-intense laser pulses, each with a minimum pulse duration of 30 fs and a variable inter-pulse delay up to 300 fs. The double pulses can superpose or resonantly excite the LWFA bubble to increase the accelerating fields. By focusing the laser beam into a 2.74 mm diameter supersonic jet of He gas, using an F/10.4 parabola, an initial intensity of up to ≈1019 Wcm−2 can be realized at focus. This ionises the gas to produce plasma and the imposes a ponderomotive force that creates the LWFA accelerating structures. For backing pressures of 30 – 60 bar, corresponding to plasma densities of 1–4×1019 cm−3, the fields of the LWFA can exceed 200 MV/m, which is sufficient to accelerate electrons to GeV energies, and ions to 100s keV/u. This study focuses on ion acceleration in the transverse direction. He+1 and He+2 ion spectra have been measured using a Thompson parabola spectrometer and a multi-channel plate detector. He ions with energies up to a few hundred keV/u are observed for both single pulses (5.0 J) and double pulses (5.0 J and 3.6 J, respectively), where the inter-pulse delay is varied between 0 fs and ± 300 fs. The measured spectra are consistent with numerical simulations. Ions are observed to undergo electron exchange in the neutral surrounding gas, which produces different charge states ions and neutral atoms.
A technique to measure the intensity profile of a focused laser pulse at full power is a long-standing desire. High power lasers allow experiments at relativistic intensities (1018 W/cm2 and beyond). At those photon densities all atoms are ionized and therefore it is very difficult to measure directly the peak intensity or the 3D-profile of the focal spot intensity. We would like to present a way to measure it, based on residual atoms in the experimental chamber.
A low-density gas will imply a number of atoms at the laser focal volume. Those atoms will be instantaneously ionized, and the released electrons will move at relativistic speeds driven by the laser field. Plasma effects, at low density, can be neglected, and electrons move independently driven only by the laser field. Nearly 50 years ago, an approach was suggested that is based on relativistic Thomson scattering, which consists of a rich spectrum of Doppler shifted radiation of the laser light, and its harmonics . This reference provides very simple expressions for the scattered Doppler shift vs. intensity. Therefore, such scattered photons give very valuable information about the intensity profile. We propose to measure the Doppler shift of the low order harmonics as an in-situ direct measure of the intensity.
In particular, we will present the first preliminary experimental observation of such a shift of the second harmonic as a non-destructive way to measure the intensity profile of the Salamanca VEGA-2 laser focal profile. The spectrum is consistent with a peak intensity beyond 1018 W/cm2, which correlates well with the expected intensity. This promising result is the theme of this presentation. Details of the experiment, numerical simulations, related experiments and prospects for exploiting relativistic Thomson scattering to develop an in situ intensity profiler will be discussed.
 E. S. Sarachik and G. T. Schappert, Phys. Rev. D 1, 2738 (1970).
Laser plasma accelerators are highly versatile and are sources of both radiation and particle beams, with unique properties. The Scottish Centre for Application based Plasma Accelerators (SCAPA) 40 TW and 350 TW laser at the University of Strathclyde has been used to produce both soft and hard x-rays using a laser wakefield accelerator (LWFA). The inherent characteristics of these femtosecond duration pulsed x-rays make them ideal for probing matter and ultrafast imaging applications. To support the development of applications of laser plasma accelerators at the SCAPA facility an adjustable Kirkpatrick-Baez x-ray microscope has been designed to focus 50 eV - 10 KeV x-rays. It is now possible to produce high quality at silicon wafers substrates that can be used for x-ray optics. Platinum-coated (40 nm) silicon wafers have been used in the KB instrument to image the LWFA x-ray source. We simulate the source distribution as part of an investigation to determine the x-ray source size and therefore its transverse coherence and ultimately the peak brilliance. The OASYS SHAODOW-OUI raytracing and wave propagation code has been used to simulate the imaging setup and determine instrument resolution.