Laser acceleration in novel media
Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of California at Irvine, Irvine, CA 92697, USA
Received: 13 March 2014
Revised: 24 March 2014
Published online: 4 June 2014
With newly available compact laser technology  we are capable of producing 100 PW-class laser pulses with a single-cycle duration on the femtosecond timescale. With this fs intense laser we can produce a coherent X-ray pulse that is also compressed, well into the hard X-ray regime (∼10 keV) and with a power up to as much as 10 Exawatts. We suggest utilizing these coherent X-rays to drive the acceleration of particles. Such X-rays are focusable far beyond the diffraction limit of the original laser wavelength and when injected into a crystal it forms a metallic-density electron plasma ideally suited for laser wakefield acceleration. If the X-ray field is limited by the Schwinger field at the focal size of ∼100 nm, the achievable energy is 1 PeV over 50 m. (If the X-rays are focused further, much higher energies beyond this are possible). These processes are not limited to only electron acceleration, and if ions are pre-accelerated to beyond GeV they are capable of being further accelerated using a LWFA scheme  to similar energies as electrons over the same distance-scales. Such high energy proton (and ion) beams can induce copious neutrons, which can also give rise to intense compact muon beams and neutrino beams that may be portable. High-energy gamma rays can also be efficiently emitted with a bril- liance many orders of magnitude above the brightest X-ray sources by this accelerating process, from both the betatron radiation as well as the dominant radiative-damping dynamics. With the exceptional conditions enabled by this technology we envision a whole scope of new physical phenomena, including: the possibility of laser self-focus in the vacuum, neutron manipulation by the beat of such lasers, zeptosecond spectroscopy of nuclei, etc. Further, we now introduce along with the idea of vacuum as a nonlinear medium, the Schwinger Fiber Accelerator. This is a self-organized vacuum fiber acceleration concept, in which the repeated process of self-focusing and defocusing for the X-ray pulse in vacuum forms a modulated fiber that guides the intense X-rays.
© EDP Sciences, Springer-Verlag, 2014