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Radiation pressure acceleration in the light-sail regime

Zepf, M. and Borghesi, M. and Mckenna, P. and Neely, D. and Najmudin, Z. and Robinson, A. P. L. and Prasad, R. and Ter-Avetysian, S. and Foster, P.F. and Carroll, D.C. and Doria, D. and Dover, N. and Gallegos, P. and Green, J. S. and Palmer, C. A.J. and Romagnani, L. and Qiao, B. and Quinn, K. and Streeter, M. and Schreiber, J. and Brenner, C. and Tresca, O. (2010) Radiation pressure acceleration in the light-sail regime. In: 37th EPS Conference on Plasma Physics 2010. European Physical Society (EPS), Mulhouse, France, pp. 129-132. ISBN 2914771622

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Accelerating objects using radiation pressure exerted by a beam of light has the potential to accelerate objects to velocities approaching the speed of light. While the dream of using this approach to accelerate macroscopic objects such as spacecraft by this means1 remains far from current technological capabilities, the extreme pressure that can be exerted by the most powerful femtosecond lasers (P=I/c>100Gbar)has made this feasible for micrometer diameter and nanometer thickness foils2. We present the first experimental evidence of foil acceleration in the light-sail regime where the whole foil exposed to laser radiation is pushed forwards by the pressure exerted by the intense laser pulse. Experimental data displaying the key signatures of the light-sail regime – peaked proton spectra for thin foil interactions.