When a laser pulse resonantly interacts with an over-dense plasma, surface plasma waves (SPWs) arise on the vacuum-plasma interface. Electrons on the plasma side move to the vacuum side and are accelerated by the SPWs. For high laser intensities, a great number of electrons reach relativistic velocities, and form a collimated beam with energies in the MeV range, and total charge up to ~650 pC. This mechanism of electron acceleration by SPWs presents many similarities with respect to wakefield acceleration, and has a great potential for use in important new applications. But the development of such applications requires further investigation of the electron acceleration in the nonlinear relativistic regime, as well as a more detailed theory of the SPW acceleration mechanism. In this project, I will analyze the dynamics of relativistic electrons accelerated by SPWs. I will verify the conditions that lead to chaotic electron behavior, and investigate if this is related to the large, non-monochromatic, energy spectra of the electron beams generated by the SPW mechanism. I will apply control methods to the system with the aim of controlling chaos, improving the acceleration process, and producing electron beams with a narrow, monochromatic, energetic spectrum. I will also compare the analytical results obtained in this project with numerical results from 2D particle-in-cell (PIC) simulations generated with the open source code SMILEI. The studies carried out in this BEPE project will greatly contribute to the associated postdoctoral and thematic grants in Brazil (FAPESP 2015/05186-0, 2018/03211-6), in which we analyze particle acceleration and control of chaos mechanisms, with applications in plasma physics and other nonlinear systems.
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship: