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J. J. Rocca et al- Application of extremely compact capillary discharge soft x-ray lasers to dense plasma diagnostics

J. J. Rocca et al- Application of extremely compact capillary discharge soft x-ray lasers to dense plasma diagnostics

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J. J. Rocca,
E. C. Hammarsten, E. Jankowska,
J. Filevich, and M. C. Marconi
 Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Colorado State University, Fort Collins,Colorado 80523
S. Moon
 Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, California 94550
V. N. Shlyaptsev
 Department of Applied Science, University of California Berkeley
 Livermore, Livermore, California 94551
Received 13 November 2002; accepted 7 January 2003
Table-top capillary discharge soft x-ray lasers combine the advantages of a small size and a highrepetition rate with an extremely high brightness similar to that of their laboratory-size predecessors.When utilized to probe high density plasmas their short wavelength results in a higher criticaldensity, reduced refraction, decreased free-electron absorption, and higher resolution as compared tooptical probes. These characteristics allow the design of experiments capable of measuring theevolution of plasmas with density–scale length products that are outside the reach of optical lasers.This paper reviews the use of a 46.9 nm wavelength Ne-like Ar capillary discharge table-top laserin dense plasma diagnostics, and reports soft x-ray laser interferometry results of spot-focusNd:YAG laser plasmas created at moderate irradiation intensity (
W cm
) with
13 nspulse width duration laser pulses. The measurements produced electron density maps with densitiesup to 0.9
that show the development of a concave electron density profile that differsignificantly from those of a classical expansion. This two-dimensional behavior, that was recentlyalso observed in line-focus plasmas, is analyzed here for the case of spot-focus plasmas with theassistance of hydrodynamic model simulations. The results demonstrate the use of a table-top softx-ray laser interferometer as a new high resolution tool for the study of high density plasmaphenomena and the validation of hydrodynamic codes. ©
2003 American Institute of Physics.
DOI: 10.1063/1.1557056
Optical lasers have been used for decades to diagnosedense plasmas utilizing techniques that include interferom-etry, deflectometry, shadowgraphy and scattering.
However,the maximum plasma density and size that can be studied arelimited by plasma refraction of the probe beam, by free–freeabsorption, and in the case of interferometry by the maxi-mum number of fringe shifts that can be detectedexperimentally.
Nevertheless, since all these limitations de-crease as a function of the frequency of the probe beam, theuse of shorter wavelength laser probes can significantly ex-tend the plasma parameter space that can be probed. Theshort wavelength and high peak spectral brightness of softx-ray lasers make them ideal sources for probing high den-sity plasmas. Their shorter wavelength amounts to a highercritical plasma density for the probe beam that results inreduced refraction. The shorter wavelength also results insmaller diffraction and allows for higher resolution. More-over, their high monochromaticity allows for the use of multilayer-coated optics as filters to discriminate the probebeam from the strong self-emission of the hot dense plasmas.The first soft x-ray laser plasma diagnostics experimentswere conducted at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratoryusing a laboratory-size 15.5 nm Ne-like Y laser pumped bythe Nova laser. These experiments included shadowgraphyand radiography,
Moire deflectometry,
of dense large-scale plasmas. The studiesprovided insight into dense plasma phenomena unavailablethrough other techniques in spite of the low repetition rate
limited to several shots per day
and the high complexity of the laboratory x-ray laser probe. Table-top soft x-ray lasers
combine the advantages of a much higher repetition rate anda small compact size with an extremely high brightness thatin some cases is similar to or higher than that of theirlaboratory-size predecessors. These characteristics allow thedesign of plasma diagnostic experiments that can systemati-cally measure the evolution of high-density plasmas, provid-ing data for the validation of hydrodynamic codes. The cap-illary discharge pumped soft x-ray lasers described in Sec. IIoffer the opportunity to develop portable soft x-ray tools forthe diagnostics of a large variety of dense plasmas. Some of us have utilized a 46.9 nm capillary discharge Ne-like Ar
Paper GI2 5, Bull. Am. Phys. Soc.
, 138
Invited speaker.
Permanent address: Department of Physics, Wroclaw University of Tech-nology, Poland.
Also with the Department of Physics, University of Buenos Aires, Argen-tina.PHYSICS OF PLASMAS VOLUME 10, NUMBER 5 MAY 2003
20311070-664X/2003/10(5)/2031/8/$20.00 © 2003 American Institute of Physics
Downloaded 17 Oct 2007 to Redistribution subject to AIP license or copyright, see http://pop.aip.org/pop/copyright.jsp
laser to realize the first demonstrations of plasmashadowgraphy
and interferometry with a table-top soft x-raylaser source.
More recently, a compact laser-pumpedtransient collisional x-ray laser operating at 14.7 nm wasused to obtain interferograms of a laser-created plasma withpicosecond resolution.
In Sec. III we discuss the experi-mental techniques developed to conduct soft x-ray laser in-terferometry of dense plasmas and presents results of thestudy of two-dimensional effects in laser-created plasmas.
There are strong motivations for the development of compact soft x-ray lasers for dense plasma diagnostics andother applications. Collisionally excited table-top lasersbased on fast discharge excitation
and short pulse laserexcitation
have both reached gain saturation. Lasing bycollisional recombination in transitions to the ground statehas also been demonstrated in a table-top setup.
Capillarydischarge excitation of elongated Ne-like Ar plasma columnshas produced laser pulses with energies approaching one mJand mW average powers of coherent radiation at 46.9 nm ina table-top setup. Large amplification with this excitationtechnique has also been demonstrated at 52.8 nm in Ne-likeCl
and at 60.2 nm in Ne-like S.
In the 46.9 nm Ne-like Ar discharge-pumped laser theamplification is generated by excitation of an Ar-filled capil-lary channel with a fast discharge current pulse. Prior to thearrival of the fast current pulse, the gas in the capillary chan-nel is seeded with a significant density of free electrons andions created by a pre-ionizing current pulse of 
s dura-tion that reaches
80 A amplitude. In this excitation schemethe magnetic force of the fast current pulse rapidly com-presses the plasma to form a dense and hot column with alarge density of Ne-like ions, a very high axial uniformity,and length to diameter ratio exceeding 1000:1. Collisionalelectron impact excitation of the ground state Ne-like ionsproduces a population inversion between the 3
) and3
) levels, resulting in the amplification at 46.9 nm.
Figure 1 illustrates the simulated dynamics of an Ar plasmacolumn created in a 3.2 mm diameter capillary filled with460 mTorr of Ar and excited by a fast current pulse of 25 kApeak amplitude and 25 ns risetime. The spatio-temporal evo-lution of the electron temperature and plasma density com-puted with the code
is shown. A shock wave origi-nates in the vicinity of the capillary wall and is acceleratedtowards the center by the Lorentz force and large thermalpressure gradients near the wall.Aheat wave moves ahead of the mass. When the heat wave arrives at the axis, the maxi-mum current density and Joule dissipation switches to thecenter of the discharge. A plasma column 200–300
m indiameter with peak electron temperature of about 100 eV isformed. Lasing occurs at a time when the electron tempera-ture is 60–80 eV.
The electron density peaks a few ns later,exceeding 1
. The total current flowing insidethe compressed plasma column is only 15–20% of the totalcurrent. This situation probably helps to suppress currentinstabilities.
Thus, the very good initial plasma symmetryof the pre-ionized plasma column, and the relatively shorttime duration of the compression process are all likely tocontribute to the suppression of the instabilities that com-monly deteriorate the symmetry of many high current dis-charges. The very good axial uniformity of these plasma col-umns is evidenced by the excellent measured spatialcoherence of the amplified beam.
In the capillary laser devices that have produced thehighest output pulse energies and average powers the dis-charge takes place in aluminum oxide capillary channels 3.2mm in diameter and up to 36 cm in length, filled with pre-ionized Ar gas at a pressure of 490 mTorr. The plasma col-umns are excited by current pulses of 
26 kA peak ampli-tude, with a 10% to 90% rise time of approximately 40 ns.The excitation current pulse is produced by discharging awater capacitor through a spark gap switch connected in se-ries with the capillary load. The water serves as a liquiddielectric for the capacitor and also is circulated to cool thecapillary for repetitive operation. The capacitor is pulse-charged by a compact four-stage Marx generator. The com-pact typical size of such a capillary discharge Ne-like Arlaser is illustrated at the right of Fig. 2, as part of the setup
FIG. 1.
Simulated spatio-temporal distribution of the
electrontemperature and
electron density in a capillary discharge argon plasmacolumn. The calculation is for an alumina capillary 3.2 mm diameter filledwith 460 mTorr of Ar excited by a current pulse with a peak amplitude of 25kA and 30 ns rise time.
2032 Phys. Plasmas, Vol. 10, No. 5, May 2003 Rocca
et al.
Downloaded 17 Oct 2007 to Redistribution subject to AIP license or copyright, see http://pop.aip.org/pop/copyright.jsp
used to conduct soft x-ray interferometry in laser-createdplasmas. A commercial 0.8 J Nd:YAG laser used to createthe plasmas that are the subject of the plasma characteriza-tion experiments described in Sec. III can be seen on thelower part of the figure. The capillary discharge soft x-raylaser has a size comparable to the Nd:YAG laser and occu-pies a table space of approximately 0.4 m
1 m.Efficient energy extraction is obtained by operating thelaser in a highly saturated regime. The laser pulse intensityincreases nearly exponentially as a function of plasma col-umn length, until it reaches the gain saturation intensity of 56–78 MW cm
at a plasma column length of about 14 cm.As the laser pulse propagates beyond this point in the plasmacolumns, its intensity reaches the linear amplification regimethat characterizes a saturated amplifier. Laser output pulsesfor the longest capillaries used
36 cm
exceed the saturationintensity by more than an order of magnitude, approaching 1GW cm
. Correspondingly, the laser pulse energy wasmeasured to increase linearly with length from 0.075 mJ fora plasma column 16 cm in length, to 0.88 mJ (
for a plasma column length of 34.5 cm. Av-erage laser powers of 3.5 mW and a peak power of 0.6 MWwere obtained operating the laser at a repetition rate of 4 Hz.More than 5000 laser shots were generated using a singlecapillary. The full width at a half maximum laser pulse widthmeasured for the longest capillaries is 1.5
0.05 ns.
Thislaser pulse width is longer than the 1.2 ns that was measuredfor an 18.2 cm long amplifier.
Recent measurements demonstrated that full spatial co-herence is approached with the longest capillaries and thatthe peak spectral brightness is about 2
s mm
0.01 % bandwidth
This value makes this table-toplaser one of the brightest soft x-ray sources available. A se-ries of Young’s interference experiments measured a rapidincrease of the spatial coherence as a function of capillarylength. This coherence buildup is the result of strong refrac-tive anti-guiding and gain guiding taking place in the capil-lary plasma column. At the discharge conditions mentionedabove the plasma column acquires an electron density profilethat presents a maximum density on axis at the time of maxi-mum amplification. The associated variation of the refractiveindex refracts the amplified beam, causing a ring shaped in-tensity distribution in the far field with a peak to peak diver-gence of about 4.6 mrad. With the presence of significantrefraction only radiation that propagates near the axis expe-riences substantial gain and contributes to the output of thelaser. Therefore, at the expense of the effective gain, refrac-tion provides a mode selection mechanism that significantlyimproves the spatial coherence of the soft x-ray laser for longplasma columns. This intrinsic mode selection mechanismmakes it possible to achieve a coherence radius comparableto the beam size. Such a high spatial coherence allows us toobtain high contrast interferograms for dense plasma diag-nostics.
The power of interferometry as a plasma diagnostic tech-nique resides in its ability to generate detailed maps of theelectron density without having to rely as heavily on model-ing as other techniques. Da Silva
et al.
conducted soft x-raylaser interferometry experiments using a laboratory-size 15.5nm Ne-like Y laser in conjunction with a Mach–Zehnderinterferometer based on thin-film beam splitters.
To realizedemonstrations of soft x-ray interferometry of dense plasmaswith a table-top laser, we used the 46.9 nm capillary dis-charge laser in combination with either a wavefront-divisioninterferometer based on Lloyds mirror,
or an amplitudedivision interferometer in which diffraction gratings wereused as beam splitters.
Other soft x-ray laser inteferom-eters based on a Fresnel bimirror
and a Michelson interfer-ometer that makes use of a thin film beam splitter
havebeen demonstrated or are under development by othergroups.The Lloyds mirror is the simplest possible reflectioninterferometer, and because it is based on a grazing incidencereflection it is particularly well suited for soft x-ray interfer-ometry. In a previous publication we have discussed a proof of principle interferometry experiment in which a Lloydsmirror and a 46.9 nm capillary discharge laser were used tomeasure the electron density distribution in the cathode re-gion of a pinch plasma.
While simplicity is an advantageof the Lloyd’s mirror interferometer, the diffraction gratinginterferometer
described below has the advantage of producing interferograms of significantly higher quality,which display a high fringe visibility
over the entirefield of view.
illustrated in Fig. 3
is a high throughput am-plitude division interferometer design that can be adapted foroperation with any of the presently available saturated softx-ray lasers. It consists of a Mach–Zehnder configuration of rhomboidal shape in which the beam splitters are gold coateddiffraction gratings.
The zero and first diffracted orders
FIG. 2. Setup for soft x-ray laser plasma interferometry experiments. Thecapillary discharge soft x-ray laser observed on the right of the photographgenerates a 46.9 nm wavelength beam that propagates into the amplitudedivision soft x-ray interferometer seen at the left. A commercial 1 J Nd:YAGlaser used to generate the laser-created plasmas studied is seen in the lowerpart of the figure.
2033Phys. Plasmas, Vol. 10, No. 5, May 2003 Application of extremely compact capillary discharge . . .
Downloaded 17 Oct 2007 to Redistribution subject to AIP license or copyright, see http://pop.aip.org/pop/copyright.jsp

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