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Optically controlled dense current structures driven by relativistic plasma aperture-induced diffraction

Gonzalez-Izquierdo, Bruno and Gray, Ross J. and King, Martin and Dance, Rachel J. and Wilson, Robbie and McCreadie, John and Butler, Nicholas M. H. and Capdessus, Remi and Hawkes, Steve and Green, James S. and Borghesi, Marco and Neely, David and McKenna, Paul (2016) Optically controlled dense current structures driven by relativistic plasma aperture-induced diffraction. Nature Physics, 12. pp. 505-512. ISSN 1745-2473

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Abstract

The collective response of charged particles to intense fields is intrinsic to plasma accelerators and radiation sources, relativistic optics and many astrophysical phenomena. Here we show that a \textit{relativistic plasma aperture} is generated in thin foils by intense laser light, resulting in the fundamental optical process of diffraction. The plasma electrons collectively respond to the resulting laser near-field diffraction pattern, producing a beam of energetic electrons with spatial structure which can be controlled by variation of the laser pulse parameters. It is shown that static electron beam, and induced magnetic field, structures can be made to rotate at fixed or variable angular frequencies depending on the degree of ellipticity in the laser polarization. The concept is demonstrated numerically and verified experimentally, and is an important step towards optical control of charged particle dynamics in laser-driven dense plasma sources.