The collective response of charged particles to intense fields is intrinsic to plasma accelerators and radiation sources, relativistic optics and many astrophysical phenomena. Here we show that a relativistic plasma aperture is generated in thin foils by intense laser light, resulting in the fundamental optical process of diffraction. The plasma electrons collectively respond to the resulting laser near-field diffraction pattern, producing a beam of energetic electrons with a spatial structure that can be controlled by variation of the laser pulse parameters. It is shown that static electron-beam and induced-magnetic-field structures can be made to rotate at fixed or variable angular frequencies depending on the degree of ellipticity in the laser polarization. The concept is demonstrated numerically and verified experimentally, and is an important step towards optical control of charged particle dynamics in laser-driven dense plasma sources.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy(all)