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  1. Spherical tokamak plasmas are typically overdense and thus inaccessible to externally-injected microwaves in the electron cyclotron range. The electrostatic electron Bernstein wave (EBW), however, provides a method to access the plasma core for heating and diagnostic purposes. Understanding the details of the coupling process to electromagnetic waves is thus important both for the interpretation of microwave diagnostic data and for assessing the feasibility of EBW heating and current drive. While the coupling is reasonably well–understood in the linear regime, nonlinear physics arising from high input power has not been previously quantified. To tackle this problem, we have performed one- andmore » two-dimensional fully kinetic particle-in-cell simulations of the two possible coupling mechanisms, namely X-B and O-X-B mode conversion. We find that the ion dynamics has a profound effect on the field structure in the nonlinear regime, as high amplitude short-scale oscillations of the longitudinal electric field are excited in the region below the high-density cut-off prior to the arrival of the EBW. We identify this effect as the instability of the X wave with respect to resonant scattering into an EBW and a lower-hybrid wave. Finally, we calculate the instability rate analytically and find this basic theory to be in reasonable agreement with our simulation results.« less
  2. An intense X wave propagating perpendicularly to dc magnetic field is unstable with respect to a parametric decay into an electron Bernstein wave and a lower-hybrid wave. A modified theory of this effect is proposed that extends to the high-intensity regime, where the instability rate γ ceases to be a linear function of the incident-wave amplitude. An explicit formula for γ is derived and expressed in terms of cold-plasma parameters. Here, theory predictions are in reasonable agreement with the results of the particle-in-cell simulations presented in a separate publication.
  3. A series of experiments studying pre-plasma’s effect on electron generation and transport due to a high intensity laser were conducted on the OMEGA-EP laser facility. A controlled pre-plasma was produced in front of an aluminum foil target prior to the arrival of the high intensity short pulse beam. Energetic electron spectra were characterized with magnetic and bremsstrahlung spectrometers. Preplasma and pulse length were shown to have a large impact on the temperature of lower energy, ponderomotive scaling electrons. Furthermore, super-ponderomotive electrons, seen in prior pre-plasma experiments with shorter pulses, were observed without any initial pre-plasma in our experiment. 2D particle-in-cellmore » and radiation-hydrodynamic simulations shed light on and validate these experimental results.« less
  4. We report an experimental-computational study of the optical properties of plasma mirrors (PMs) at the incident laser frequency when irradiated directly at relativistic intensity (10 180<10 19W/cm 2) by near-normally incident (4°), high-contrast, 30 fs, 800 nm laser pulses. We find that such relativistic PMs are highly reflective (0.6–0.8) and focus a significant fraction of reflected light to intensity as large as ~10I0 at distance f as small as ~25 μm from the PM, provided that pre-pulses do not exceed 10 14 W/cm 2 prior to ~20 ps before arrival of the main pulse peak. Particle-in-cell simulations show that focusingmore » results from denting of the reflecting surface by light pressure combined with relativistic transparency and that reflectivity and f can be adjusted by controlling pre-plasma length L over the range 0.5 ≲L ≲ 3 μm. Pump-probe reflectivity measurements show that the PM's focusing properties evolve on a ps time scale.« less
  5. Using two-dimensional particle-in-cell simulations, we examine how an externally applied strong magnetic field impacts proton acceleration in laser-irradiated solid-density targets. We find that a kT-level external magnetic field can sufficiently inhibit transverse transport of hot electrons in a flat laser-irradiated target. While the electron heating by the laser remains mostly unaffected, the reduced electron transport during proton acceleration leads to an enhancement of maximum proton energies and the overall number of energetic protons. The resulting proton beam is much better collimated compared to a beam generated without applying a kT-level magnetic field. A factor of three enhancement of the lasermore » energy conversion efficiency into multi-MeV protons is another effect of the magnetic field. The required kT-level magnetic fields are becoming feasible due to a significant progress that has been made in generating magnetic fields with laser-driven coils using ns-long laser pulses. The possibility of improving characteristics of laser-driven proton beams using such fields is a strong motivation for further development of laser-driven magnetic field capabilities.« less
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