Cosmic rays are high energy particles, mostly protons, arriving at the Earth and detected in many places in the Universe. Blast waves launched by supernova explosions (Cassiopeia A is a good example) are probably the main source of cosmic rays in our Milky Way Galaxy, reaching energies up to a few PeV. The highest energy cosmic rays with energies exceeding 100EeV are almost certainly accelerated in even more energetic events outside our own galaxy. Our aim is to understand the plasma processes responsible for cosmic ray acceleration and to explain cosmic ray origins.
Solids and gases can be heated and converted to a plasma with a very high energy density with high power lasers. An important potential application is inertial fusion energy (IFE) for electricity generation. At very high laser intensities the plasma is relativistic. Lasers are now entering a regime in which QED is important.