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Experimental Signatures of the Quantum Nature of Radiation Reaction in the Field of an Ultraintense Laser

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  • K. Poder
  • M. Tamburini
  • G. Sarri
  • A. Di Piazza
  • S. Kuschel
  • C. D. Baird
  • K. Behm
  • S. Bohlen
  • J. M. Cole
  • D. J. Corvan
  • M. Duff
  • E. Gerstmayr
  • C. H. Keitel
  • K. Krushelnick
  • S. P.D. Mangles
  • P. McKenna
  • Z. Najmudin
  • G. M. Samarin
  • D. R. Symes
  • A. G.R. Thomas
  • J. Warwick
  • M. Zepf


Publication details

JournalPhysical Review X
DateAccepted/In press - 30 May 2018
DatePublished (current) - 5 Jul 2018
Issue number3
Number of pages11
Original languageEnglish


The description of the dynamics of an electron in an external electromagnetic field of arbitrary intensity is one of the most fundamental outstanding problems in electrodynamics. Remarkably, to date, there is no unanimously accepted theoretical solution for ultrahigh intensities and little or no experimental data. The basic challenge is the inclusion of the self-interaction of the electron with the field emitted by the electron itself - the so-called radiation reaction force. We report here on the experimental evidence of strong radiation reaction, in an all-optical experiment, during the propagation of highly relativistic electrons (maximum energy exceeding 2 GeV) through the field of an ultraintense laser (peak intensity of 4×1020 W/cm2). In their own rest frame, the highest-energy electrons experience an electric field as high as one quarter of the critical field of quantum electrodynamics and are seen to lose up to 30% of their kinetic energy during the propagation through the laser field. The experimental data show signatures of quantum effects in the electron dynamics in the external laser field, potentially showing departures from the constant cross field approximation.

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© 2018 Published by the American Physical Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license. Further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the published article’s title, journal citation, and DOI.

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