Intense laser-matter interactions can generate picosecond-bursts of the largest terrestrial magnetic fields, nearly a billion times that of the earth. Besides serving as an indispensable diagnostic in unraveling laser-matter interaction, these magnetic fields have far-reaching implications including laser-mediated nuclear fusion and the simulation of astrophysical scenarios in the laboratory.
The interaction of an ultra-short high intensity laser pulse with solids results in a hot dense plasma, which is an excellent source of bright short-lived hard x-rays and energetic particles. A quasi-static charge-separation sheath electric field is generated by the collective displacement of a large number of laser generated hot electrons. The ions get accelerated, according to their charge-to-mass ratio, in such fields until charge neutrality is restored. Thus, the laser driven ion acceleration mechanism is a secondary process determined by the hot electron dynamics. Typically, in the laser-plasma based ion accelerator, the sheath electric field is of the order of TV/m.
Accelerating neutral atoms, contrary to laser-based as well as conventional particle accelerators, is a formidable feat, given the inert, �neutral� response of these atoms to accelerating fields. Our recent studies provide a crucial breakthrough in the generation of accelerated neutral atoms, with energies as large as an MeV, as a result of the interaction of intense lasers with nanoclusters.
Illumination with an intense laser can metamorphose a plethora of material forms, ranging from nanostructures to liquid micro-droplets and even bacterial cells, into the brightest sources of hard x-rays, with numerous applications in imaging and microscopy as well as novel techniques in lithography.
The highly non-linear regime of intense laser-plasma interactions offers a most promising platform to investigate non-equilibrium scenarios, turbulence mechanisms and plasma instabilities, the evolution of which can be monitored on a femtosecond timescale.