High-density electron-ion bunch formation and multi-GeV positron production via radiative trapping in extreme-intensity laser-plasma interactions

Capdessus, R and Gremillet, L and McKenna, P (2020) High-density electron-ion bunch formation and multi-GeV positron production via radiative trapping in extreme-intensity laser-plasma interactions. New Journal of Physics, 22. 113003. ISSN 1367-2630

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    Abstract

    Multi-petawatt laser systems will open up a novel interaction regime mixing collective plasma and quantum electrodynamic processes, giving rise to prolific generation of gamma-ray photons and electron-positron pairs. Here, using particle- in-cell simulations, we investigate the physics of the interaction of a 1024W.cm−2 intensity, 30 fs duration, circularly polarized laser pulse with a long deuterium plasma at classically overcritical electron density (1022 cm−3). We show that radiative trapping of the plasma electrons causes a high-density (∼ 5×1023 cm−3), quasineutral electron-ion bunch to form inside the laser pulse. This phenomenon is accompanied by up to ∼ 40% energy conversion efficiency of the laser into gamma rays. Moreover, we find that both the radiation-modified Laplace force and the longitudinal electric field exerted on the positrons created by the multiphoton Breit-Wheeler process can accelerate them to GeV-range energies. We develop a theoretical model, the predictions of which provide a good match to the simulation results. Finally, we address the influence of the ion mass, showing that the laser absorption and positron acceleration is enhanced with deuterons compared to protons.