Plasma polymers as targets for laser-driven proton-boron fusion

Marco Tosca*, Daniel Molloy, Aaron McNamee, Pavel Pleskunov, Mariia Protsak, Kateryna Biliak, Daniil Nikitin, Jaroslav Kousal, Zdeněk Krtouš, Lenka Hanyková, Jan Hanuš, Hynek Biederman, Temour Foster, Gagik Nersisyan, Philip Martin, Chloe Ho, Anna Macková, Romana Mikšová, Marco Borghesi, Satyabrata KarValeriia Istokskaia, Yoann Levy, Antonino Picciotto, Lorenzo Giuffrida, Daniele Margarone, Andrei Choukourov*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Laser-driven proton-boron (pB) fusion has been gaining significant interest for energetic alpha particles production because of its neutron-less nature. This approach requires the use of B- and H-rich materials as targets, and common practice is the use of BN and conventional polymers. In this work, we chose plasma-assisted vapour phase deposition to prepare films of oligoethylenes (plasma polymers) on Boron Nitride BN substrates as an advanced alternative. The r.f. power delivered to the plasma was varied between 0 and 50 W to produce coatings with different crosslink density and hydrogen content, while maintaining the constant thickness of 1 μm. The chemical composition, including the hydrogen concentration, was investigated using XPS and RBS/ERDA, whereas the surface topography was analyzed using SEM and AFM. We triggered the pB nuclear fusion reaction focusing laser pulses from two different systems (i.e., the TARANIS multi-TW laser at the Queen’s University Belfast (United Kingdom) and the PERLA B 10-GW laser system at the HiLASE center in Prague (Czech Republic)) directly onto these targets. We achieved a yield up to 108 and 104 alpha particles/sr using the TARANIS and PERLA B lasers, respectively. Radiative-hydrodynamic and particle-in-cell PIC simulations were performed to understand the laser-target interaction and retrieve the energy spectra of the protons. The nuclear collisional algorithm implemented in the WarpX PIC code was used to identify the region where pB fusion occurs. Taken together, the results suggest a complex relationship between the hydrogen content, target morphology, and structure of the plasma polymer, which play a crucial role in laser absorption, target expansion, proton acceleration and ultimately nuclear fusion reactions in the plasma.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1227140
JournalFrontiers in Physics
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jul 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
MT thanks the support of Charles University through the student GAUK: 110-10/252390 2023 and Marvel Fusion GmbH, KB and MP also acknowledge Charles University with the student grant SVV 260 579-2023. DM acknowledge the support of the HB11 Energy studentship (R8509CPP). DM thanks the STFC Scientific Computing Department’s SCARF cluster and the kelvin2 cluster at Northern Ireland High Performance Computing (NI-HPC) facility funded by EPSRC (EP/T022175) for providing computational resources. The FLASH hydrodynamic code used in this work was developed in part by the DOE NNSA- and DOE Office of Science supported Flash Center for Computational Science at the University of Chicago and the University of Rochester. This work used the open-source particle-in-cell code WarpX , primarily funded by the US DOE Exascale Computing Project. Primary WarpX contributors are with LBNL, LLNL, CEA-LIDYL, SLAC, DESY, CERN, and Modern Electron. We acknowledge all WarpX contributors. Some parts of the Research (RBS, ERDA analyses) were realised at the CANAM (Center of Accelerators and Nuclear Analytical Methods LM 2011019) infrastructure and the work was supported by the MEYS under the project CANAM OP, CZ.02.1.01/0.0/0.0/16_013/0001812. We acknowledge the EUROfusion Consortium, which was funded by the European Union via the Euratom Research and Training Program (Grant agreement no. 101052200—EUROfusion).

Funding Information:
This research was funded by the project “Target Engineering for Proton-Boron Nuclear Fusion Studies” sponsored by the UK Royal Society. This work is partially supported by the project Advanced research using high intensity laser produced photons and particles (ADONIS) CZ.02.1.01/0.0/0.0/16_019/0000789 from European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871161. YL acknowledges the support of The European Regional Development Fund and the state budget of the Czech Republic (project BIATRI: No. CZ.02.1.01/0.0/0.0/15_003/0000445).

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2023 Tosca, Molloy, McNamee, Pleskunov, Protsak, Biliak, Nikitin, Kousal, Krtouš, Hanyková, Hanuš, Biederman, Foster, Nersisyan, Martin, Ho, Macková, Mikšová, Borghesi, Kar, Istokskaia, Levy, Picciotto, Giuffrida, Margarone and Choukourov.


  • boron nitride
  • plasma polymer
  • proton-boron fusion
  • thin films
  • ultra-high intense lasers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Materials Science (miscellaneous)
  • Mathematical Physics
  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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