Wavefront-sensor-based electron density measurements for laser-plasma accelerators

Rev Sci Instrum. 2010 Mar;81(3):033108. doi: 10.1063/1.3360889.


Characterization of the electron density in laser produced plasmas is presented using direct wavefront analysis of a probe laser beam. The performance of a laser-driven plasma-wakefield accelerator depends on the plasma wavelength and hence on the electron density. Density measurements using a conventional folded-wave interferometer and using a commercial wavefront sensor are compared for different regimes of the laser-plasma accelerator. It is shown that direct wavefront measurements agree with interferometric measurements and, because of the robustness of the compact commercial device, offer greater phase sensitivity and straightforward analysis, improving shot-to-shot plasma density diagnostics.