Relativistic laser-plasma interactions

Donald Umstadter

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

318 Scopus citations


By focusing petawatt peak power laser light to intensities up to 1021 W cm-2, highly relativistic plasmas can now be studied. The force exerted by light pulses with this extreme intensity has been used to accelerate beams of electrons and protons to energies of a million volts in distances of only microns. This acceleration gradient is a thousand times greater than in radio-frequency-based accelerators. Such novel compact laser-based radiation sources have been demonstrated to have parameters that are useful for research in medicine, physics and engineering. They might also someday be used to ignite controlled thermonuclear fusion. Ultrashort pulse duration particles and x-rays that are produced can resolve chemical, biological or physical reactions on ultrafast (femtosecond) timescales and on atomic spatial scales. These energetic beams have produced an array of nuclear reactions, resulting in neutrons, positrons and radioactive isotopes. As laser intensities increase further and laser-accelerated protons become relativistic, exotic plasmas, such as dense electron-positron plasmas, which are of astrophysical interest, can be created in the laboratory. This paper reviews many of the recent advances in relativistic laser-plasma interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R151-R165
JournalJournal of Physics D: Applied Physics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 21 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films


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