Experimental observation of relativistic nonlinear Thomson scattering

Szu Yuan Chen, Anatoly Maksimchuk, Donald P Umstadter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

207 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Classical Thomson scattering - the scattering of low-intensity light by electrons - is a linear process, in that it does not change the frequency of the radiation; moreover, the magnetic-field component of light is not involved. But if the light intensity is extremely high (~1018 W cm-2, the electrons oscillate during the scattering process with velocities approaching the speed of light. In this relativistic regime, the effect of the magnetic and electric fields on the electron motion should become comparable, and the effective electron mass will increase. Consequently, electrons in such high fields are predicted to quiver nonlinearly, moving in figure-of-eight patterns rather than in straight lines. Scattered photons should therefore be radiated at harmonics of the frequency of the incident light, with each harmonic having its own unique angular distribution. Ultrahigh-peak-power lasers offer a means of creating the huge photon densities required to study relativistic, or 'nonlinear' (ref. 6), Thomson scattering. Here we use such an approach to obtain direct experimental confirmation of the theoretical predictions of relativistic Thomson scattering. In the future, it may be possible to achieve coherent generation of the harmonics, a process that could be potentially utilized for 'table- top' X-ray sources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)653-655
Number of pages3
JournalNature
Volume396
Issue number6712
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 17 1998

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Thomson scattering
harmonics
luminous intensity
electrons
photon density
electron mass
scattering
magnetic fields
angular distribution
electric fields
photons
radiation
predictions
lasers
x rays

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

Cite this

Experimental observation of relativistic nonlinear Thomson scattering. / Chen, Szu Yuan; Maksimchuk, Anatoly; Umstadter, Donald P.

In: Nature, Vol. 396, No. 6712, 17.12.1998, p. 653-655.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Chen, Szu Yuan ; Maksimchuk, Anatoly ; Umstadter, Donald P. / Experimental observation of relativistic nonlinear Thomson scattering. In: Nature. 1998 ; Vol. 396, No. 6712. pp. 653-655.
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