Clustered gas jets are shown to be an efficient means for plasma waveguide generation, for both femtosecond and picosecond generation pulses. These waveguides enable significantly lower on-axis plasma density (less than 1018 cm−3) than in conventional hydrodynamic plasma waveguides generated in unclustered gases. Using femtosecond pump pulses, self-guided propagation and strong absorption (more than 70%) are used to produce long centimetre scale channels in an argon cluster jet, and a subsequent intense pulse is coupled into the guide with 50% efficiency and guided at above 1017 W cm−2 intensity over 40 Rayleigh lengths. We also demonstrate efficient generation of waveguides using 100 ps axicon-generated Bessel-beam pump pulses. Despite the expected sub-picosecond cluster disassembly time, we observe long pulse absorption efficiencies up to a maximum of 35%. Simulations show that in the far leading edge of the long laser pulse, the volume of heated clusters evolves to a locally uniform and cool plasma already near ionization saturation, which is then efficiently heated by the remainder of the pulse.
One contribution of 15 to a Discussion Meeting Issue ‘Laser-driven particle accelerators: new sources of energetic particles and radiation’.
- © 2006 The Royal Society