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Simulations of efficient Raman amplification into the multipetawatt regime

Trines, R. M. G. M. and Fiuza, F. and Bingham, R. and Fonseca, R. A. and Silva, L. O. and Cairns, R. A. and Norreys, P. A. (2011) Simulations of efficient Raman amplification into the multipetawatt regime. Nature Physics, 7 (1). pp. 87-92. ISSN 1745-2473

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Contemporary high-power laser systems make use of solid-state laser technology to reach petawatt pulse powers. The breakdown threshold for optical components in these systems, however, demands metre-scale beams. Raman amplification of laser beams promises a breakthrough by the use of much smaller amplifying media, that is, millimetre-diameter plasmas, but so far only 60 GW peak powers have been obtained in the laboratory, far short of the desired multipetawatt regime. Here we show, through the first large-scale multidimensional particle-in-cell simulations of this process, that multipetawatt peak powers can be reached, but only in a narrow parameter window dictated by the growth of plasma instabilities. Raman amplification promises reduced cost and complexity of intense lasers, enabling much greater access to higher-intensity regimes for scientific and industrial applications. Furthermore, we show that this process scales to short wavelengths, enabling compression of X-ray free-electron laser pulses to attosecond duration.