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Laser-driven X-ray and neutron source development for industrial applications of plasma accelerators

Brenner, C M and Mirfayzi, S R and Rusby, D R and Armstrong, C and Alejo, A and Wilson, L and Clarke, R and Ahmed, H and Butler, N M H and Haddock, D and Higginson, A and McClymont, A and Murphy, C and Notley, M and Oliver, P and Allott, R and Hernandez-Gomez, C and Kar, S and McKenna, P and Neely, D (2015) Laser-driven X-ray and neutron source development for industrial applications of plasma accelerators. Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion, 58. ISSN 0741-3335

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    Pulsed beams of energetic X-rays and neutrons from intense laser interactions with solid foils are promising for applications where bright, small emission area sources, capable of multi-modal delivery are ideal. Possible end users of laser-driven multi-modal sources are those requiring advanced non-destructive inspection techniques in industry sectors of high value commerce such as aerospace, nuclear and advanced manufacturing. We report on experimental work that demonstrates multi-modal operation of high power laser-solid interactions for neutron and X-ray beam generation. Measurements and Monte-Carlo radiation transport simulations show that neutron yield is increased by a factor ~ 2 when a 1mm copper foil is placed behind a 2mm lithium foil, compared to using a 2cm block of lithium only. We explore X-ray generation with a 10 picosecond drive pulse in order to tailor the spectral content for radiography with medium density alloy metals. The impact of using >1ps pulse duration on laser-accelerated electron beam generation and transport is discussed alongside the optimisation of subsequent Bremsstrahlung emission in thin, high atomic number target foils. X-ray spectra are deconvolved from spectrometer measurements and simulation data generated using the GEANT4 Monte-Carlo code. We also demonstrate the unique capability of laser-driven X-rays in being able to deliver single pulse high spatial resolution projection imaging of thick metallic objects. Active detector radiographic imaging of industrially relevant sample objects with a 10ps drive pulse is presented for the first time, demonstrating that features of 200µm size are resolved when projected at high magnification.