Investigation of laser-plasma interactions at near-critical densities
During the high-intensity laser-plasma experiments conducted at the high-power laser system JETI40 at IOQ, the two qualitatively different laser side-scattering processes have been observed. The side-scattering observed during the first experiment was found to be non-symmetric in nature with respect to the lasers propagation direction and it was estimated to occur from under-dense to quarter critical plasma densities. The scattering angle was found to gradually decrease, as the laser pulse propagates towards regions of higher densities (i.e. the gas jet centre). For increasing nozzle backing pressures, the scattering was also found to gradually change from upward to down- ward directions. In this thesis, this side-scattering process is shown to a consequence of the laser propagation in non-uniform plasma, where the scattering angle was found to be oriented along the direction of the plasma gradient. In the second experiment, a symmetric side-scattering process with respect to the lasers propagation direction was observed from the intense central laser-plasma interaction region. This scattering process was found to originate from a longitudinally narrow laser-plasma interaction region and vary over ±50 with respect to the lasers transverse direction. It was found to primarily occur in the near-critical plasma density regime (0.09nc 0.25nc, where nc is the plasma critical density). In contrast to the previous experiment, Raman scattering has been shown to be the cause of this symmetric scattering process, where the scattering occurs as the result of the wave vector non-alignment between the main laser pulse and the resulting plasma wave.