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Title: Laser wakefield acceleration of electrons to GeV energies and temporal laser pulse compression characterization in a capillary discharge waveguide
Author: Walker, Paul Andreas
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis presents results from three strands of experimental work aimed towards establishing more reproducible, higher energy, and more accurately measured electron beams generated by a laser-driven plasma accelerator. The first experiment calibrated two types of detector frequently used to measure the bunch charge in laser wakefield accelerator experiments, namely scintillating screens and image plates. The experiments undertaken at the DAFNE beam test facility in Frascati, Italy, confirmed that the fluorescence signal from Kodak Lanex Regular screens varies linearly with the charge density for a nanosecond elec- tron bunch for charge densities in the range between ρ = 2 × 10−7 C/m2 to ρ = 10−5 C/m2. A sensitivity measurement of FUJIFILM BAS-IP MS image plates resulted in a sensitivity of SMS = (0.0487 ± 0.0028 ) PSL, which is 2.4 times higher than had been assumed prior to this work. The second strand aimed at improving the operation of the capillary discharge waveguide by re-designing the discharge circuit and the waveguide housing. The experiment showed that combining a glow discharge circuit with the pulsed discharge circuit of the capillary discharge waveguide reduced electrical noise, the timing jitter between the trigger pulse and the discharge, and the voltage required to initially break down the capillary gas for pressures below 10 mbar and above 150 mbar. The size of the housing of the capillary discharge waveguide was reduced in all three dimensions by an average of 60 %, enabling the device to be used in future staging experiments, and an open design of the housing eliminated the possibility of unwanted discharges. The new capillary design performed without flaw in the Astra-Gemini experiment and no disadvantages compared with the old housing were found. The third strand of work describes an experiment undertaken with the Astra-Gemini laser at the Central Laser Facility of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, United Kingdom. The improved capillary discharge waveguide was used to generate GeV-scale electron beams with good reproducibility. Beams of electrons with energies above 900 MeV, and with root- mean-square divergence of 3.5 mrad, were observed for a plasma density of 2.2 × 1018 cm−3 and a peak input laser power of 55 TW. The variation of the maximum electron energy with the plasma density was measured and found to agree well with simple models. The energy spectra of the generated electron beams exhibited good shot-to-shot reproducibility, with the observed variations attributable to the measured shot-to-shot jitter of the laser parameters. Two methods for correcting the effect of beam pointing variations on the measured energy spectrum were tested and it was found that using a thin Lanex screen in front of the electron spectrometer was easy to implement and did not degrade the recorded energy spectrum. The first observation of temporal compression of a laser pulse within a plasma channel with simultaneous electron acceleration to energies higher than 500 MeV is also presented. This measurement suggests that the pulse compresses linearly from the back as predicted by theory.
Supervisor: Hooker, Simon M. Sponsor: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Physics ; Atomic and laser physics ; laser wakefield acceleration ; laser ; plasma channel ; capillary discharge waveguide ; GeV ; electron spectrometer ; charge calibration ; laser pulse compression