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  1. A compact high-flux, short-pulse neutron source would have applications from nuclear astrophysics to cancer therapy. Laser-driven neutron sources can achieve fluxes much higher than spallation and reactor neutron sources by reducing the volume and time in which the neutron-producing reactions occur by orders of magnitude. We report progress towards an efficient laser-driven neutron source in experiments with a cryogenic deuterium jet on the Texas Petawatt laser. Neutrons were produced both by laser-accelerated multi-MeV deuterons colliding with Be and mixed metallic catchers and by d ( d , n ) 3 He fusion reactions within the jet. We observed deuteron yields of 10 13 /shot in quasi-Maxwellian distributions carrying ∼ 8 − 10 % of the input laser energy. We obtained neutron yields greater than 10 10 /shot and found indications of a deuteron-deuteron fusion neutron source with high peak flux ( > 1 0 22 cm −2  s −1 ). The estimated fusion neutron yield in our experiment is one order of magnitude higher than any previous laser-induced dd fusion reaction. Though many technical challenges will have to be overcome to convert this proof-of-principle experiment into a consistent ultra-high flux neutron source, the neutron fluxes achieved here suggest laser-driven neutron sources can support laboratory study of the rapid neutron-capture process, which is otherwise thought to occur only in astrophysical sites such as core-collapse supernova, and binary neutron star mergers. 
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  2. High-power lasers can generate energetic particle beams and astrophysically relevant pressure and temperature states in the high-energy-density (HED) regime. Recently-commissioned high-repetition-rate (HRR) laser drivers are capable of producing these conditions at rates exceeding 1 Hz. However, experimental output from these systems is often limited by the difficulty of designing targets that match these repetition rates. To overcome this challenge, we have developed tungsten microfluidic nozzles, which produce a continuously replenishing jet that operates at flow speeds of approximately 10 m/s and can sustain shot frequencies up to 1 kHz. The ambient-temperature planar liquid jets produced by these nozzles can have thicknesses ranging from hundreds of nanometers to tens of micrometers. In this work, we illustrate the operational principle of the microfluidic nozzle and describe its implementation in a vacuum environment. We provide evidence of successful laser-driven ion acceleration using this target and discuss the prospect of optimizing the ion acceleration performance through an in situ jet thickness scan. Future applications for the jet throughout HED science include shock compression and studies of strongly heated nonequilibrium plasmas. When fielded in concert with HRR-compatible laser, diagnostic, and active feedback technology, this target will facilitate advanced automated studies in HRR HED science, including machine learning-based optimization and high-dimensional statistical analysis.

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  3. null (Ed.)
  4. Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 1, 2024