, Volume 74, Issue 4-5, pp 355-361

Laser wake field acceleration: the highly non-linear broken-wave regime

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We use three-dimensional particle-in-cell simulations to study laser wake field acceleration (LWFA) at highly relativistic laser intensities. We observe ultra-short electron bunches emerging from laser wake fields driven above the wave-breaking threshold by few-cycle laser pulses shorter than the plasma wavelength. We find a new regime in which the laser wake takes the shape of a solitary plasma cavity. It traps background electrons continuously and accelerates them. We show that 12-J, 33-fs laser pulses may produce bunches of 3×1010 electrons with energy sharply peaked around 300 MeV. These electrons emerge as low-emittance beams from plasma layers just 700-μm thick. We also address a regime intermediate between direct laser acceleration and LWFA, when the laser-pulse duration is comparable with the plasma period.