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Phys Rev E Stat Nonlin Soft Matter Phys. 2004 Jun;69(6 Pt 2):066415. Epub 2004 Jun 17.

Ultrashort laser pulses and electromagnetic pulse generation in air and on dielectric surfaces.

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Naval Research Laboratory, Plasma Physics Division, Washington, DC 20375, USA.


Intense, ultrashort laser pulses propagating in the atmosphere have been observed to emit sub-THz electromagnetic pulses (EMPS). The purpose of this paper is to analyze EMP generation from the interaction of ultrashort laser pulses with air and with dielectric surfaces and to determine the efficiency of conversion of laser energy to EMP energy. In our self-consistent model the laser pulse partially ionizes the medium, forms a plasma filament, and through the ponderomotive forces associated with the laser pulse, drives plasma currents which are the source of the EMP. The propagating laser pulse evolves under the influence of diffraction, Kerr focusing, plasma defocusing, and energy depletion due to electron collisions and ionization. Collective effects and recombination processes are also included in the model. The duration of the EMP in air, at a fixed point, is found to be a few hundred femtoseconds, i.e., on the order of the laser pulse duration plus the electron collision time. For steady state laser pulse propagation the flux of EMP energy is nonradiative and axially directed. Radiative EMP energy is present only for nonsteady state or transient laser pulse propagation. The analysis also considers the generation of EMP on the surface of a dielectric on which an ultrashort laser pulse is incident. For typical laser parameters, the power and energy conversion efficiency from laser radiation to EMP radiation in both air and from dielectric surfaces is found to be extremely small, < 10(-8). Results of full-scale, self-consistent, numerical simulations of atmospheric and dielectric surface EMP generation are presented. A recent experiment on atmospheric EMP generation is also simulated.

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