Just like an electrical switch allows the flow of electricity into electrical circuits, relativistic transparency in plasma can act like a fast optical switch allowing the flow of light through otherwise opaque plasma.
Modern day lasers, such as the Trident laser in Los Alamos National Laboratory delivers a 200 terawatt power pulse (roughly 400 times the average electrical consumption of the United States) in half a trillionth of a second (picosecond) time. As shown in Fig. 1, when the laser power reaches a threshold limit, relativistic transparency in plasma turns the initially opaque plasma transparent in less than a tenth of a picosecond.
Powerful lasers are used to drive plasmas in next-generation particle accelerators and x-ray beams. One shortcoming of these beams is that they typically have a range of energy, caused by the gradual rise of laser power from zero to its maximum level. Using an optical switch, this ramp up time can be reduced to less than a tenth of a picosecond, delivering peak laser power to the plasma on a faster time scale.
So, how does this relativistic transparency happen inside plasma? When a laser beam is incident on (or strikes) plasma, electrons in the plasma react to the laser to cancel its presence inside the plasma. But when the laser is powerful enough to accelerate electrons close to the speed of light, the mass of the electrons increases, making them "heavier." These heavier electrons cannot react quickly enough; hence the laser beam propagates through the plasma.
Now, for the first time, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Ludwig-Maximilian Universität (LMU) in Germany have been able to make a direct observation of relativistic transparency in thin plasmas using a Frequency-Resolved Optical Gating (FROG) device. The discovery was made possible by two key capabilities: the ability to fabricate carbon foils a few nanometers thick to produce thin plasma, and the elimination of optical noise preceding the Trident laser pulse on a few picosecond timescale.
Initially, the researchers observed pulse shortening due to relativistic transparency and consistent spectral broadening. Later, they also measured the shape of the laser pulses incident on and transmitted through the plasma to directly observe the transparency as shown in figure 2. The transmitted laser pulse is roughly half the duration of the incident laser pulse, with a transparency turn on time around a fifth of a picosecond. The experimental results are well consistent with that of computer simulation, except the loss of fast turn-on time due to propagation effects arising from diffraction. Efforts are currently underway to eliminate diffraction limitations to observe the true turn-on time.
Saralyn Stewart | EurekAlert!
Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves
24.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Struktur und Dynamik der Materie
Move over, lasers: Scientists can now create holograms from neutrons, too
21.10.2016 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion
Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences
24.10.2016 | Life Sciences
24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy