Study of picosecond-scale electron dynamics in laser-produced plasmas with and without an external magnetic field
MetadataShow full item record
The interaction of ultra-short laser pulses and cluster targets can be used to explore a number of interesting phenomena, ranging from nuclear fusion to astrophysical blast waves. In our experiments, we focused on exploring very fast plasma dynamics of a plasma created by ionizing clusters and monomer gas. By using a 115 fs laser pulse, we can even study sub-picosecond plasma dynamics. In addition, we also wanted to impose an external magnetic field on these plasmas to study how the plasma evolution would change. The results of this work produced two significant results. First, a new, extremely fast ionization mechanism, with velocities as high as 0.5 c, was discovered which allows for significant plasma expansion on a picosecond time-scale. Experimental studies measured the velocity of the ionization wave, while particle-in-cell simulations helped explain the source and longevity of the wave. It was also observed that this ionization wave was not affected by the external magnetic field. Second, the external field was shown to inhibit plasma expansion on a time-scale of tens of picoseconds, which seems to be one of the first demonstrations of magnetic confinement on such a fast time-scale. Simple 1D simulations tell us that the field appears to slow electron heat transport in the plasma as well as inhibiting collisional ionization of electrons expanding into the surrounding gas. The inhibition of plasma expansion by the field on this time-scale may provide some evidence that magnetic confinement of a fusion plasma created by exploding clusters could improve the fusion yield by slowing heat loss as well as possibly electrostatically confining the hot ions.