Brunel-Dominated Proton Acceleration with a Few-Cycle Laser Pulse
Experimental measurements of backward accelerated protons are presented. The beam is produced when an ultrashort (5 fs) laser pulse, delivered by a kHz laser system, with a high temporal contrast (108), interacts with a thick solid target. Under these conditions, proton cutoff energy dependence with laser parameters, such as pulse energy, polarization (from p to s), and pulse duration (from 5 to 500 fs), is studied. Theoretical model and two-dimensional particle-in-cell simulations, in good agreement with a large set of experimental results, indicate that proton acceleration is directly driven by Brunel electrons, in contrast to conventional target normal sheath acceleration that relies on electron thermal pressure.