The nonlinear optics of plasmas and inertial confinement fusion

PICKSC members and its collaborators are engaged in research to significantly advance the fundamental understanding of the nonlinear optics of plasmas and electron transport in high-energy-density laboratory plasmas (HEDLP), including conditions of relevance to Inertial Fusion Energy and the National Ignition Facility. In inertial fusion energy the pressure produced by lasers interacting with plasmas must ultimately compress a pellet of Deuterium and Tritium to high pressures and densities to initiate fusion reactions. When the laser propagates in high energy density plasmas it can be deflected, reflected, and absorbed by and into waves which exist inside the plasma due to fundamental processes within the nonlinear optics of plasmas. These processes can lead to asymmetries in the pressure preventing the pellet to compress properly. The plasma waves can then be converted into heat or into very energetic electrons. The heat and energetic electrons can modify the laser propagation and also make it difficult to compress the target, or in some cases help to compress the target. Understanding how lasers propagate through plasmas at pressures above a 1 million atmospheres and how electrons and heat propagate in plasmas with densities as high 1000 times solid density is therefore rich in fundamental science as well as of practical importance to inertial fusion science. The processes are so complicated that in order to truly understand them, it is necessary that computer simulations be used that follow the trajectories of individual particles or follow the fine details of the distribution function of the electrons in energy and in location. We use state-of-the art PIC and Vlasov Fokker Planck codes to study laser plasmas interactions and non-local electron transport.