Ion acceleration by the interaction of an ultraintense short-pulse laser with an underdense-plasma has been studied at intensities up to . Helium ions having a maximum energy of were measured at an angle of 100° from the laser propagation direction. The maximum ion energy scaled with plasma density as . Two-dimensional particle-in-cell simulations suggest that multiple collisionless shocks are formed at high density. The interaction of shocks is responsible for the observed plateau structure in the ion spectrum and leads to an enhanced ion acceleration beyond that possible by the ponderomotive potential of the laser alone.
- Received 24 February 2004
©2004 American Physical Society