Preparation For Laser Wakefield Experiments Driven By The Texas Petawatt Laser System
Laboratories around the world are planning petawatt laser driven experiments. The Texas petawatt laser offers the ability to demonstrate laser wake field acceleration (LWFA) in a unique regime with pulse duration (similar to 160 fs) shorter than other petawatt scale systems currently in operation or under development. By focusing the 1.25 PW, 200 J, 160 Is pulses to peak intensity similar to 10(19) W/cm(2), multi-GeV electron bunches can be produced from a low density He gas jet. The rarefied plasma density (5x10(16) - 10(17) cm(-3)) required for near-resonant LWFA minimizes plasma lensing and offers long dephasing length for electron acceleration over distances (similar to 10 cm) exceeding the Rayleigh range. Because of the high power, the laser can be focused to a spot (r(0) similar to 100 microns) greater than the plasma wavelength (r(0) > lambda(p)), thus minimizing radial propagation effects. Together these properties enable the laser pulse to self-guide without the use of a preformed channel lending simplicity and stability to the overall acceleration process. Particle-in-cell (PIC) simulations show the laser experiences self-focusing which, because of ultrashort pulse duration, does not lead to a collapse of the wakefield and can generate over 3 GeV electron energy. The presented material will include details of initial measurements of the Texas petawatt laser system, simulations of laser wakefield acceleration for the given laser parameters and the experimental setup currently under construction.