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Adapting High Brightness Relativistic Electron Beams for Ultrafast Science


This thesis explores the use of ultrashort bunches generated by a radiofrequency electron photoinjector driven by a femtosecond laser. Rf photoinjector technology has been developed to generate ultra high brightness beams for advanced accelerators and to drive advanced light source applications. The extremely good quality of the beams generated by this source has played a key role in the development of 4th generation light sources such as the Linac Coherent Light Source, thus opening the way to studies of materials science and biological systems with high temporal and spatial resolution. At the Pegasus Photoinjector Lab, we have developed the application of a BNL/SLAC/UCLA 1.6-cell rf photoinjector as a tool for ultrafast science in its own right. It is the aim of this work to explore the generation of ultrashort electron bunches, give descriptions of the novel ultrafast diagnostics developed to be able to characterize the electron bunch and synchronize it with a pump laser, and share some of the scientific results that were obtained with this technology at the UCLA Pegasus laboratory.

This dissertation explains the requirements of the drive laser source and describes the principles of rf photoinjector design and operation necessary to produce electron bunches with an rms longitudinal length <100 femtoseconds containing 10e7 - 10e8 electrons per bunch. In this condition, when the laser intensity is sufficiently high, multiphoton photoemission is demonstrated to be more efficient in terms of charge yield than single photon photoemission.

When a short laser pulse hits the cathode the resulting beam dynamics are dominated by a strong space charge driven longitudinal expansion which leads to the creation of a nearly ideal uniformly filled ellipsoidal distribution. These beam distributions are characterized by linear space charge forces and hence by high peak brightness and small transverse emittances. This regime of operation of the RF photoinjector is also termed the ``blow-out regime." When the beam charge is maintained low, ultrashort electron bunches can be obtained enabling novel applications such as single shot Femtosecond Relativistic Electron Diffraction (FRED).

High precision temporal diagnostic and synchronization techniques are integral to the use of femtosecond electron bunches for ultrafast science. An x-band rf streak camera provides measurements of the longitudinal profiles of sub-ps electron bunches. Spatial encoded electro-optic timestamping is developed to overcome the inherent rf-laser synchronization errors in rf photoinjectors.

The ultrafast electron beams generated with the RF photoenjector are employed in pump-probe experiments wherein a target is illuminated with an intense pump laser to induce a transient behavior in the sample. FRED is used to study the melting of gold after heating with an intense femtosecond laser pulse. In a first experiment we study the process by taking different single-shot diffraction patterns at varying delays between the pump an probe beams. In a second experiment a variation of the technique is employed using the rf streak camera to time-stretch the beam after it has diffraction from the sample in order to capture the full melting dynamics in a single shot.

Finally, relativistic ultrashort electron bunches are used as a probe of plasma dynamics in electron radiography/shadowgraphy experiments. This technique is used to study photoemission with intense laser pulses and the evolution of electromagnetic fields in a photoinduced dense plasma. This experiment is also performed in two different modes: one where different pictures are acquired at different time delays, and the other where a single streak image is used to obtain visualization of the propagation electromagnetic fields with an unprecedented 35 femtosecond resolution.

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