Abstract

The dynamics of the plasma ions in the wake fields of short, ultraintense laser pulses in underdense plasmas are investigated analytically and numerically. Owing to the large ion-to-electron mass ratio, the motion of plasma ions in such wake fields has often been assumed to be neglectable. It is shown that when the laser intensity exceeds 1020Wcm2, the ion motion can no longer be ignored. In this case, ion momentum peaks appear behind the laser pulse, which correspond with the ion density peaks. The laser-excited wake field appears to be effective for ion acceleration, in particular to ions with high-charge numbers. The dependence of ion acceleration on the laser intensity, pulse width, and background plasma density is discussed.

© 2006 Optical Society of America

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