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Title: Holographic Imaging of Evolving Laser-Plasma Structures

In the 1870s, English photographer Eadweard Muybridge captured motion pictures within one cycle of a horse’s gallop, which settled a hotly debated question of his time by showing that the horse became temporarily airborne. In the 1940s, Manhattan project photographer Berlin Brixner captured a nuclear blast at a million frames per second, and resolved a dispute about the explosion’s shape and speed. In this project, we developed methods to capture detailed motion pictures of evolving, light-velocity objects created by a laser pulse propagating through matter. These objects include electron density waves used to accelerate charged particles, laser-induced refractive index changes used for micromachining, and ionization tracks used for atmospheric chemical analysis, guide star creation and ranging. Our “movies”, like Muybridge’s and Brixner’s, are obtained in one shot, since the laser-created objects of interest are insufficiently repeatable for accurate stroboscopic imaging. Our high-speed photographs have begun to resolve controversies about how laser-created objects form and evolve, questions that previously could be addressed only by intensive computer simulations based on estimated initial conditions. Resolving such questions helps develop better tabletop particle accelerators, atmospheric ranging devices and many other applications of laser-matter interactions. Our photographic methods all begin by splitting one or moremore » “probe” pulses from the laser pulse that creates the light-speed object. A probe illuminates the object and obtains information about its structure without altering it. We developed three single-shot visualization methods that differ in how the probes interact with the object of interest or are recorded. (1) Frequency-Domain Holography (FDH). In FDH, there are 2 probes, like “object” and “reference” beams in conventional holography. Our “object” probe surrounds the light-speed object, like a fleas swarming around a sprinting animal. The object modifies the probe, imprinting information about its structure. Meanwhile, our “reference” probe co-propagates ahead of the object, free of its influence. After the interaction, object and reference combine to record a hologram. For technical reasons, our recording device is a spectrometer (a frequency-measuring device), hence the name “frequency-domain” holography. We read the hologram electronically to obtain a “snapshot” of the object’s average structure as it transits the medium. Our published work shows numerous snapshots of electron density waves (“laser wakes”) in ionized gas (“plasma”), analogous to a water wake behind a boat. Such waves are the basis of tabletop particle accelerators, in which charged particles surf on the light-speed wave, gaining energy. Comparing our snapshots to computer simulations deepens understanding of laser wakes. FDH takes snapshots of objects that are quasi-static --- i.e. like Muybridge’s horse standing still on a treadmill. If the object changes shape, FDH images blur, as when a subject moves while a camera shutter is open. Many laser-generated objects of interest do evolve as they propagate. To overcome this limit of FDH, we developed .... (2) Frequency-Domain Tomography (FDT). In FDT, 5 to 10 probe pulses are fired simultaneously across the object’s path at different angles, like a crossfire of bullets. The object imprints a “streaked” record of its evolution on each probe, which we record as in FDH, then recover a multi-frame “movie” of the object’s evolving structure using algorithms of computerized tomography. When propagation distance exceeds a few millimeters, reconstructed FDT images distort. This is because the lenses that image probes to detector have limited depth of field, like cameras that cannot focus simultaneously on both nearby and distant objects. But some laser-generated objects of interest propagate over meters. For these applications we developed … (3) Multi-Object-Plane Phase-Contrast Imaging (MOP-PCI). In MOP-PCI, we image FDT-like probes to the detector from multiple “object planes” --- like recording an event simultaneously with several cameras, some focused on nearby, others on distant, objects. To increase sensitivity, we exploit a phase-contrast imaging technique developed by Dutch Nobel laureate Fritz Zernike in the 1930s. Using MOP-PCI we recorded single-shot movies of laser pulse tracks through more than 10 cm of air. We plan to record images of meter-long tracks of electron bunches propagating through plasma in an experiment at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC). This will help SLAC scientists understand, optimize and scale small plasma-based particle accelerators that have applications in medicine, industry, materials science and high-energy physics.« less
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  1. Univ. of Texas, Austin, TX (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
University of Texas, Austin, TX (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Fusion Energy Sciences (FES) (SC-24)
Country of Publication:
United States
70 PLASMA PHYSICS AND FUSION TECHNOLOGY laser-plasma accelerator; laser wakefield; frequency-domain holography; frequency-domain tomography; plasma diagnostics