A petawatt laser for fast ignition experiments (LFEX) laser system [N. Miyanaga et al., J. Phys. IV France 133, 81 (2006)], which is currently capable of delivering 2 kJ in a 1.5 ps pulse using 4 laser beams, has been constructed beside the GEKKO-XII laser facility for demonstrating efficient fast heating of a dense plasma up to the ignition temperature under the auspices of the Fast Ignition Realization EXperiment (FIREX) project [H. Azechi et al., Nucl. Fusion 49, 104024 (2009)]. In the FIREX experiment, a cone is attached to a spherical target containing a fuel to prevent a corona plasma from entering the path of the intense heating LFEX laser beams. The LFEX laser beams are focused at the tip of the cone to generate a relativistic electron beam (REB), which heats a dense fuel core generated by compression of a spherical deuterized plastic target induced by the GEKKO-XII laser beams. Recent studies indicate that the current heating efficiency is only 0.4%, and three requirements to achieve higher efficiency of the fast ignition (FI) scheme with the current GEKKO and LFEX systems have been identified: (i) reduction of the high energy tail of the REB; (ii) formation of a fuel core with high areal density using a limited number (twelve) of GEKKO-XII laser beams as well as a limited energy (4 kJ of 0.53-μm light in a 1.3 ns pulse); (iii) guiding and focusing of the REB to the fuel core. Laser-plasma interactions in a long-scale plasma generate electrons that are too energetic to efficiently heat the fuel core. Three actions were taken to meet the first requirement. First, the intensity contrast of the foot pulses to the main pulses of the LFEX was improved to >109. Second, a 5.5-mm-long cone was introduced to reduce pre-heating of the inner cone wall caused by illumination of the unconverted 1.053-μm light of implosion beam (GEKKO-XII). Third, the outside of the cone wall was coated with a 40-μm plastic layer to protect it from the pressure caused by imploding plasma. Following the above improvements, conversion of 13% of the LFEX laser energy to a low energy portion of the REB, whose slope temperature is 0.7 MeV, which is close to the ponderomotive scaling value, was achieved. To meet the second requirement, the compression of a solid spherical ball with a diameter of 200-μm to form a dense core with an areal density of ∼0.07 g/cm2 was induced by a laser-driven spherically converging shock wave. Converging shock compression is more hydrodynamically stable compared to shell implosion, while a hot spot cannot be generated with a solid ball target. Solid ball compression is preferable also for compressing an external magnetic field to collimate the REB to the fuel core, due to the relatively small magnetic Reynolds number of the shock compressed region. To meet the third requirement, we have generated a strong kilo-tesla magnetic field using a laser-driven capacitor-coil target. The strength and time history of the magnetic field were characterized with proton deflectometry and a B-dot probe. Guidance of the REB using a 0.6-kT field in a planar geometry has been demonstrated at the LULI 2000 laser facility. In a realistic FI scenario, a magnetic mirror is formed between the REB generation point and the fuel core. The effects of the strong magnetic field on not only REB transport but also plasma compression were studied using numerical simulations. According to the transport calculations, the heating efficiency can be improved from 0.4% to 4% by the GEKKO and LFEX laser system by meeting the three requirements described above. This efficiency is scalable to 10% of the heating efficiency by increasing the areal density of the fuel core.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Condensed Matter Physics