Laser opacity in underdense preplasma of solid targets due to quantum electrodynamics effects
AbstractWe investigate how next-generation laser pulses at 10–200PW interact with a solid target in the presence of a relativistically underdense preplasma produced by amplified spontaneous emission (ASE). Laser hole boring and relativistic transparency are strongly restrained due to the generation of electron-positron pairs and γ-ray photons via quantum electrodynamics (QED) processes. A pair plasma with a density above the initial preplasma density is formed, counteracting the electron-free channel produced by hole boring. This pair-dominated plasma can block laser transport and trigger an avalanchelike QED cascade, efficiently transferring the laser energy to the photons. This renders a 1-μm scale-length, underdense preplasma completely opaque to laser pulses at this power level. The QED-induced opacity therefore sets much higher contrast requirements for such a pulse in solid-target experiments than expected by classical plasma physics. Our simulations show, for example, that proton acceleration from the rear of a solid with a preplasma would be strongly impaired.