Ionization instability of a relativistic electron beam propagating through a dielectric targetA. Debayle and V.T. Tikhonchuk
CELIA, Université Bordeaux 1-CNRS-CEA, Talence, France
Interaction of high intensity laser pulses, (I > 1018W/cm2) with solid targets is an efficient way of production of high current relativistic electron beams (jb ~ 10 kA/μm2). Such currents can be transported only under the condition of their charge and current neutralization by the target electrons. This effect is highly dependent on the target conductivity. In a dielectric target, the free electrons are generated due to the field and collisional ionization self-induced by the relativistic electrons. The ionization process is unstable and it can lead to a beam filamentation. We demonstrate here that the electric field ionization is responsible for this instability, and it develops on spatial scales significantly larger than the ionization front thickness.
© EDP Sciences, Springer-Verlag 2009