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The origin of the seed magnetic field that is amplified by the galactic dynamo is an open question in plasma astrophysics. Aside from primordial sources and the Biermann battery mechanism, plasma instabilities have also been proposed as a possible source of seed magnetic fields. Among them, thermal Weibel instability driven by temperature anisotropy has attracted broad interests due to its ubiquity in both laboratory and astrophysical plasmas. However, this instability has been challenging to measure in a stationary terrestrial plasma because of the difficulty in preparing such a velocity distribution. Here, we use picosecond laser ionization of hydrogen gas to initialize such an electron distribution function. We record the 2D evolution of the magnetic field associated with the Weibel instability by imaging the deflections of a relativistic electron beam with a picosecond temporal duration and show that the measured k -resolved growth rates of the instability validate kinetic theory. Concurrently, self-organization of microscopic plasma currents is observed to amplify the current modulation magnitude that converts up to ~1% of the plasma thermal energy into magnetic energy, thus supporting the notion that the magnetic field induced by the Weibel instability may be able to provide a seed for the galactic dynamo.more » « lessFree, publicly-accessible full text available December 13, 2023
The advent of chirped-pulse amplification in the 1980s and femtosecond Ti:sapphire lasers in the 1990s enabled transformative advances in intense laser–matter interaction physics. Whereas most of experiments have been conducted in the limited near-infrared range of 0.8–1 μm, theories predict that many physical phenomena such as high harmonic generation in gases favor long laser wavelengths in terms of extending the high-energy cutoff. Significant progress has been made in developing few-cycle, carrier-envelope phase-stabilized, high-peak-power lasers in the 1.6–2 μm range that has laid the foundation for attosecond X ray sources in the water window. Even longer wavelength lasers are becoming available that are suitable to study light filamentation, high harmonic generation, and laser–plasma interaction in the relativistic regime. Long-wavelength lasers are suitable for sub-bandgap strong-field excitation of a wide range of solid materials, including semiconductors. In the strong-field limit, bulk crystals also produce high-order harmonics. In this review, we first introduce several important wavelength scaling laws in strong-field physics, then describe recent breakthroughs in short- (1.4–3 μm), mid- (3–8 μm), and long-wave (8–15 μm) infrared laser technology, and finally provide examples of strong-field applications of these novel lasers. Some of the broadband ultrafast infrared lasers will have profound effects on medicine, environmental protection, and national defense, because their wavelengths cover the water absorption band, the molecular fingerprint region, as well as the atmospheric infrared transparent window.