A method, which utilizes the large difference in ionization potentials between successive ionization states of trace atoms, for injecting electrons into a laser-driven wakefield is presented. Here a mixture of helium and trace amounts of nitrogen gas was used. Electrons from the shell of nitrogen were tunnel ionized near the peak of the laser pulse and were injected into and trapped by the wake created by electrons from majority helium atoms and the shell of nitrogen. The spectrum of the accelerated electrons, the threshold intensity at which trapping occurs, the forward transmitted laser spectrum, and the beam divergence are all consistent with this injection process. The experimental measurements are supported by theory and 3D OSIRIS simulations.
- Received 3 August 2009
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