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null (Ed.)Abstract Magnetized plasma interactions are ubiquitous in astrophysical and laboratory plasmas. Various physical effects have been shown to be important within colliding plasma flows influenced by opposing magnetic fields, however, experimental verification of the mechanisms within the interaction region has remained elusive. Here we discuss a laser-plasma experiment whereby experimental results verify that Biermann battery generated magnetic fields are advected by Nernst flows and anisotropic pressure effects dominate these flows in a reconnection region. These fields are mapped using time-resolved proton probing in multiple directions. Various experimental, modelling and analytical techniques demonstrate the importance of anisotropic pressure in semi-collisional, high- β plasmas, causing a reduction in the magnitude of the reconnecting fields when compared to resistive processes. Anisotropic pressure dynamics are crucial in collisionless plasmas, but are often neglected in collisional plasmas. We show pressure anisotropy to be essential in maintaining the interaction layer, redistributing magnetic fields even for semi-collisional, high energy density physics (HEDP) regimes.more » « less
null (Ed.)Abstract Laser wakefield accelerators promise to revolutionize many areas of accelerator science. However, one of the greatest challenges to their widespread adoption is the difficulty in control and optimization of the accelerator outputs due to coupling between input parameters and the dynamic evolution of the accelerating structure. Here, we use machine learning techniques to automate a 100 MeV-scale accelerator, which optimized its outputs by simultaneously varying up to six parameters including the spectral and spatial phase of the laser and the plasma density and length. Most notably, the model built by the algorithm enabled optimization of the laser evolution that might otherwise have been missed in single-variable scans. Subtle tuning of the laser pulse shape caused an 80% increase in electron beam charge, despite the pulse length changing by just 1%.more » « less