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Bubble regime of wake field acceleration: similarity theory and optimal scalings
A Pukhov and S Gordienko Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 2006 364, 623-633 doi: 10.1098/rsta.2005.1727

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Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A (2006) 364, 623633 doi:10.1098/rsta.2005.1727 Published online 24 January 2006

Bubble regime of wake eld acceleration: similarity theory and optimal scalings
B Y A. P UKHOV 1, *



Institut fur Theoretische Physik I, Heinrich-Heine-Universitat Dusseldorf, Dusseldorf 40225, Germany 2 L.D. Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics, 2 Kosygin str., Moscow 119334, Russia

A similarity theory is developed for ultra-relativistic laserplasmas. It is used to compare and optimize possible regimes of three-dimensional wake eld acceleration. The optimal scalings for laser wake eld electron acceleration are obtained analytically. The main message of the present work is that the bubble acceleration regime [see Pukhov A. & Meyer-ter-Vehn J. 2002. Appl. Phys. B 74, 355] satises these optimal scalings.
Keywords: plasma acceleration; similarity theory; dimensional analysis

1. Introduction The concept of laserplasma electron acceleration has the decisive advantage over conventional accelerators: plasma supports electric elds orders of magnitude higher than the breakdown-limited eld in radio-frequency cavities of conventional linacs. It is expected that the relativistic laserplasma will nally lead to a compact high energy accelerator (Katsouleas 2004; Malka 2004). The very rst experiments already have delivered high quality electron beams in the energy range 70170 MeV (Faure et al. 2004; Gedder et al. 2004; Mangles et al. 2004). Yet, the way to a real laserplasma accelerator that generates a high-energy electron beam with superior properties is long and full of problems which have to be solved. The main obstacle is that the experiments depend on too many parameters. Often, this makes the interpretation of experimental results ambiguous. At the same time, theoretical models suffer from a similar drawback. The system of kinetic equations describing the problem is both strongly non-linear and contains many parameters. As a result, the quest of searching for new perspective acceleration regimes is challenging and the physics of electron acceleration in plasma is often rather obscure. The scientic difculties just listed are neither new nor unique. Quite analogous problems are encountered with classical (magneto-)hydrodynamics. One of the most powerful theoretical tools in such situations is the similarity theory (Birkhoff 1960; Sedov 1993). The similarity allows engineers to scale the behaviour of a physical system from a laboratory acceptable size to the size of practical use.
* Author for correspondence ( One contribution of 15 to a Discussion Meeting Issue Laser-driven particle accelerators: new sources of energetic particles and radiation.


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To the best of our knowledge, no similarity theory has been applied to relativistic laserplasma interactions. This situation is surprising and unnatural, because the power of similarity theory for the magnetic connement was recognized in the late 1970s and the similarity theory (Kadomtsev 1975; Connor & Taylor 1977; Lackner et al. 1994) has been in use for design of large devices (tokamaks, stellarators) ever thereafter. The aim of this article is to ll this theory gap. For the rst time, we develop a similarity theory for laserplasma interactions in the ultra-relativistic limit. Using a fully kinetic approach, we show that the similarity parameter SZne/a0nc exists, where a0ZeA0/mec2 is the relativistically normalized laser amplitude, ne is the plasma electron density and nc Z me u2 =4pe2 is the critical density for a 0 laser with the carrier frequency u0. The basic ultra-relativistic similarity states that laserplasma interactions with different a0 and ne/nc are similar as soon as the similarity parameter SZne/a0ncZconst. for these interactions. The basic S-similarity is valid for both over- and underdense plasmas. In the present work, we are interested in the special limit S/1 of relativistically underdense plasmas as it is important for the high energy electron acceleration. In this case, S can be considered as a small parameter and quite general scalings for laserplasma interactions can be found. It follows from the theory that in the p optimal conguration the laser pulse has the focal spot radius kp R z a0 and the duration t%R/c. Here, kpZup/c is the plasma wavenumber and u2 Z 4pne e2 =me p is the plasma frequency. This corresponds to the bubble acceleration regime (Pukhov & Meyer-ter-Vehn 2002). The central result of our theory is that the bubble regime of electron acceleration is stable, scalable and the scaling for the maximum energy Emono of the monoenergetic peak in the electron spectrum is s P ct 2 Emono z0:65me c : 1:1 P rel l
2 Here, P is the laser pulse power, P rel Z me c5 =e2 z8:5 GW is the natural relativistic power unit, and lZ2pc/u0 is the laser wavelength. The scaling (1.1) assumes that the laser pulse duration satises the condition ct!R. The scaling for the number of accelerated electrons Nmono in the monoenergetic peak is s 1:8 P ; 1:2 Nmono z k0 re P rel

where reZe2/mec2 is the classical electron radius, and k0Z2p/l. The acceleration length Lacc scales as ct 1:3 Lacc z0:7 ZR ; l where ZR Z pR2 =l za0 l2 =4pl is the Rayleigh length. p The parametric dependencies in the scalings (1.1)(1.3) follow from the analytical theory. The numerical pre-factors are taken from three-dimensional PIC simulations. These pre-factors may change depending on the particular shape of the pulse envelope. However, as soon as the envelope of the incident laser pulse is dened, the pre-factors are xed. The parametric dependencies are universal and do not depend on the particular pulse shape.
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2. S-similarity We consider collisionless laserplasma dynamics and neglect the ion motion. The electron distribution function f (t, r, p) is described by the Vlasov equation vt C vvr KeE C v !B=cvp f t; p; r Z 0; 2:1 where pZmegv and self-consistent elds E and B satisfy the Maxwell equations (Jackson 1999). We suppose that the laser pulse vector potential at the time tZ0 short before entering the plasma is AtZ 0Z ay 2 C z 2 =R2 ; x=ctcosk0 x, where k0Zu0/c is the wavenumber, R is the focal spot radius and t is the pulse duration. If one xes the laser envelope a(rt,x), then the laserplasma dynamics depends on four dimensionless parameters: the laser amplitude a0Zmaxjea/mec2j, the focal spot radius k0R, the pulse duration u0t, and the plasma density ratio ne/nc, where nc Z me u2 =4pe2 is the critical density. 0 Now, we are going to show that in the ultra-relativistic limit when a0[1, the number of independent dimensionless parameters reduces to three: k0R, u0t and S, where the similarity parameter S is n SZ e : 2:2 a0 nc Let us introduce the new dimensionless variables ^ Z S 1=2 u0 t; t ^ AZ eA ; me c 2 a 0 ^ r Z S 1=2 k0 r; ^ p Z p=me ca0 ; 2:3

S K1=2 eE S K1=2 eB ^ ^ EZ ; BZ ; me cu0 a0 me cu0 a0

^ and the new distribution function f dened as ne ^t ^ ^ ^ ^ f ^; p; r ; a0 ; S; R; t; fZ me ca0 3


^ ^ where RZ S 1=2 k0 R and t Z S 1=2 u0 t. ^ The normalized distribution function f is a universal one describing the interaction of the given laser pulse with a xed plasma prole. It satises the equations ^ v^ C vv^ KE C ^ ! Bvpf Z 0; t ^ r v ^ ^^ 2:5 2:6 ^ r ^ V^ $E Z 4p1 C r;V^ $B Z 0; r ^ ^ V^ ! B Z 4pj C v^E; V^ ! E ZKv^B; r ^ t^ r ^ t^ q ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^^ p ^ where v Z p= p2 C aK2 is the electron velocity, r ZK f dp, j ZK v f d^ and 0 the initial condition for the vector potential is ^ t ^ y ^ ^ ^ t ^ A^ Z 0 Z a^2 C z 2 =R; x =^cosS K1=2 x 2:7

^ ^ with the slow envelope a such that maxjajZ 1. Equation (2.5) together with the initial condition (2.7) still depend on the four ^ ^ dimensionless parameters R, t, S and a0. However, the parameter a0 appears only
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in the expression for the electron velocity. In the limit a0[1, one can write ^ ^ v Z p= q ^ ^ ^ ^ p2 C aK2 z v Z p=jpj: 0 2:8

Consequently, for the ultra-relativistic amplitude a0[1, the laserplasma dynamics does not depend separately on a0 and ne/nc. Rather, they converge into the single similarity parameter S. The ultra-relativistic similarity means that for different interaction cases with SZconst, plasma electrons move along similar trajectories. The number of these electrons Ne, their momenta p, and the plasma elds scale as pf a0 ; Ne f a0 ; 2:9 2:10

f; A; E; Bf a0

for u0tZconst., k0RZconst. and SZconst. The ultra-relativistic similarity is valid for arbitrary S-values. The S parameter appears only in the initial condition (2.7) so that SK1/2 plays the role of the laser frequency. It separates the relativistically overdense plasmas with S[1 from the underdense ones with S/1. Let us discuss shortly the applicability area of the similarity theory. The only approximation made is expressed by the formula (2.8). It states that all the electron velocities are equal to the vacuum light velocity c. Is this approximation well grounded in the context of the laser wake eld acceleration (LWFA)? We stress that although the electron velocities are always c, their longitudinal components can be arbitrary depending on the particular direction of the threedimensional electron momentum. What matters in the LWFA is the electron trapping and dephasing. Both these phenomena are correctly included in our similarity theory. The trapping and dephasing depend on the longitudinal component of the electron velocity: ps vs Z q : 2 p2 C p2 C me c2 t s 2:11

2 When p2 [ me c2 , one can neglect the term m2c2 under the square root in the e t denominator of the expression (2.11). According to the similarity theory the transverse electron momentum p t scales as a 0, see (2.9). Thus, the approximation (2.8) is valid in the three dimensional geometry if a0[1. Another question that might arise is whether the approximation (2.8) is consistent, as clearly a large part of the electron distribution outside and in front of the laser pulse is non-relativistic. Indeed, electrons outside of the laser pulse do not participate in the interaction: their momenta remain zero. Consequently, they produce no currents and can be simply discarded. Electrons ahead of the laser pulse also have zero momenta initially. However, they must pass through the weakly relativistic precursor of the laser pulse. Our similarity theory is accurate as long as one can neglect this transient interaction with the lowintensity precursor.

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3. Optimal scalings for LWFA From now on, we concentrate on the special case of underdense plasma, particularly the bubble acceleration regime (Pukhov & Meyer-ter-Vehn 2002). In this paper, we provide a heuristic derivation for the bubble similarity. A mathematically accurate and detailed derivation will be published elsewhere (Gordienko & Pukhov 2005). If we x the laser pulse envelope, then the laserplasma dynamics depends on the three dimensionless parameters: the pulse radius k0/R, its aspect ratio PZct/R and the parameter S. In the case of tenious plasmas, S/1, one can develop all the universal functions around Sz0 and obtain additional similarities. An additional similarity means that the number of truly independent dimensionless parameters decreases, i.e. one of the parameters S, k0R, or P can be expressed as a function of the remaining two. We choose S and P as the independent parameters: g Z S ag a0 g0 P; N Z S aN a0 N0 P; R Z S aR R0 P; L Z S aL L0 P; 3:1

where a1 are unknown powers and g0(P), R0(P), L0(P) depend only on the dimensionless parameter P. In this notation, N is the number of trapped electrons and L is the acceleration length. It follows from the Maxwell equations that the accelerating bubble eld scales as Ebubble f ne R; 3:2 simply because the bubble is free from the background electrons. This eld accelerates electrons to the energy me c2 g Z 8eLne R; 3:3

where 8 is the acceleration efciency. The laser energy is deposited in plasma in the form of the bubble eld (3.2). We introduce the depletion factor q:
2 Ebubble R2 L Z qWlaser ;


where Wlaser f ca0 me u0 =e2 R3 P is the laser pulse energy. Analogously, energy of the electron bunch is me c2 gNtr Z hWlaser ; 3:5 where h is the overall energy conversion efciency. The similarity demands that 8 Z S a8 80 P; q Z S aq q0 P; h Z S ah h0 P: 3:6

Equations (3.1)(3.6) relate the unknown powers ai and the P-dependent functions: ag Z a8 C aR C aL C 1; ag Z ah KaN C 3aR ; g0 Z 80 R0 L0 ; aR C aL Z aq K2; R0 L0 Z Pq0 : 3:7 g0 N0 Z Pq0 ;

The rst three equations in (3.7) contain seven unknown variables and are insufcient to dene all the powers a1. This is not unexpected, because we have
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used the energy relations only and did not discuss details of the acceleration mechanism. Although, it is reasonable to assume that the mechanism of laser energy depletion (3.4) does not depend on S and to set aqZ0. This leads immediately to aRCaLZK2. Consequently, one can introduce a fundamental p similarity length Lsim f RL f S K1 kK1 , which follows from the energy consider0 ations only. Further, we mention that the acceleration rate cannot be parametrically faster than that dened by the eld Ebubble. Thus, the expansion (3.6) for 8 must converge for small S, and we have a8O0. The fastest acceleration is reached for a8Z0. Substituting a8 Z aq Z 0 into equation (3.7), one obtains agZK1, i.e. gZ a0 S K1 g0 P. Because of its physical meaning, the energy conversion efciency h%1. Consequently, ahR0. The most efcient energy transformation corresponds to ahZ0. This, in turn, leads to the scaling aN Z 3aR C 1, i.e. N f ne R3 . It follows from the bubble physics (Pukhov & Meyer-ter-Vehn 2002; Gordienko & Pukhov 2005) that if the aspect ratio P!1, the laser pulse ts into the cavity. In this case, it is reasonable to expect that the dependence of the efciencies 80, q0, h0 on P is weak. For simplicity, we neglect this weak dependence. In this case, the last three equations in (3.7) claim that the dependence of N0 on P is also weak. At the same time, g0(P) is simply proportional to P. Summarizing, we write gf a0 S K1 P; N f n e R3 : 3:8

We emphasize once more that these scalings describe the optimal acceleration regime in the limit of small S, because we have chosen the largest physically allowed parametric dependencies for the accelerating force and the energy transformation efciency. Even if one might nd better acceleration regimes for Sz1, these regimes will not be scalable towards S/1. To obtain further scalings on the radius R and the length L, one needs additional information on the accelerating structure. It follows from the Maxwell equations (Gordienko & Pukhov 2005) that all the potentials scale simultaneously, i.e. the bubble potential 4 scales together with the laser potential a0. Because ff Ebubble R, we obtain from (3.2) that k0 Rf S K1=2 and that the dependence R0(P) is weak. Finally, we obtain for the acceleration length Lacc f S K3=2 Pf R3 P; 3:9

p and for the similarity length Lsim Z RLacc f R2 . The presence of these two different lengths leads to the so-called ladder similarity as discussed in detail in Gordienko & Pukhov (2005). Adding dimensional factors to the scalings (3.8)(3.9) and comparing with numerical simulations we come to the formulae (1.1)(1.3). The acceleration length (3.9) is dened by the pulse depletion. In the bubble regime, the depletion length is always shorter than the so-called dephasing length Ldeph. The dephasing length is a propagation distance where the accelerated electrons start to enter the decelerating eld region. The expression for the dephasing length is derived in Gordienko & Pukhov (2005), where it was called
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wave breaking distance. It scales as Ldeph f S K3=2 f R3 : 3:10

Thus, LdephOLacc if the pulse aspect ratio P!1. As a result, the acceleration length (3.9) is limited by the pulse depletion.

4. Simulations with three-dimensional PIC code VLPL To check the analytical scalings, we use three-dimensional Particle-in-Cell simulations with the code VLPL (Virtual LaserPlasma Laboratory) (Pukhov 1999). In the simulations, we use a circularly polarized laser pulse with the envelope at; r t Z a0 cospt=2texpK 2 =R2 , which is incident on a plasma rt with uniform density ne. We used grid steps hxZ0.07l, hyZhzZ0.5l, and four particles per cell. First, we check the basic ultra-relativistic similarity with SZconst. We choose the laser pulse duration tZ8$2p/u0. The laser radius is RZ8l, where lZ2pc/u0 is the laser wavelength. The laser pulse aspect ratio ct/RZ1 in this case. We x the basic similarity parameter to the value S iZ10K3 and perform a series of four simulations with (i) ai Z10, ni Z0.01nc; (ii) aiiZ20, niiZ0.02nc; (iii) 0 e 0 e aiiiZ40, niiiZ0.04nc; (iv) aivZ80, nivZ0.08nc. Assuming the laser wavelength 0 e 0 e lZ800 nm, one can calculate the laser pulse energies in these four cases: W iZ6 J; W iiZ24 J; W iiiZ96 J; W ivZ384 J. These simulation parameters correspond to the bubble regime of electron acceleration (Pukhov & Meyer-ter-Vehn 2002), because the laser pulse duration t is shorter than the p relativistic plasma period a0 uK1 . We let the laser pulses propagate the distance p Li Z1000l through plasma in the all four cases. At this distance, the laser pulses b are depleted, the acceleration ceases and the wave breaks. Figure 1(i)(iv) shows evolution of electron energy spectra for these four cases. One sees that the energy spectra evolve quite similarly. Several common features can be identied. First, a monoenergetic peak appears after the acceleration distance Lz200l. Later, after the propagation distance Lz600l, the single monoenergetic peak splits into two peaks. One peak continues the acceleration towards higher energies, while another peak decelerates and nally disappears. Comparing the axes scales in gure 1, we conclude that the scalings (2.9) hold with a good accuracy. Now, we are going to check the general scalings (3.8)(3.9) for the variable S-parameter. We choose the laser amplitude avZ80 and the plasma density 0 nvZ0.02nc. This corresponds to S vZ2.5!10K4 and the laser energy Wvz1.5 kJ. e In this case, the initial laser radius and duration must be increased by the factor p S i =S v Z 2. Thus, we use the laser pulse with RvZ16l and tvZ16$2p/u0. This case gives the pure density scaling when compared with the case (iv), or the pure laser amplitude scaling when compared with the case (ii). We let the laser run Lv Z8000l through the plasma. At this distance, the energy of the laser pulse is acc completely depleted and the wave breaks. The change of the depletion length Lv =Liacc Z S i =S v 3=2 coincides with the scaling (3.9). acc The electron spectrum evolution obtained in this simulation is shown in gure 2. The energy of the monoenergetic peak continuously grows up to some
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2109 (i) 1.5109 1109 5108 1 0 11010 (iii) 0.1 0.2 4

A. Pukhov and S. Gordienko

5109 4109 5 3 2109 2 1 0.5 (iv) 4 3 5109 2 5109 1 0 1 2 0 1 1 2 energy (GeV) 3 4 4 11010 5 2 3 5 1 3109 3 4 5


Ne in 1% energy range

1109 0





Figure 1. Electron energy spectra obtained in the simulations (i)(iv) (see text). The control points 15 were taken after the propagation distances L1Z200l, L2Z400l, L3Z600l, L4Z800l, L5Z 1000l. The spectra evolve similarly. The monoenergetic peak positions scale fa0 and the number of electrons in a 1% energy range also scales fa0 in agreement with the analytic scalings (2.9).

12 GeV at the end. Between the control points, where the spectra in gure 2 have been taken, the laser pulse propagated the distance LZ800l. This distance is S i/S vZ4 times larger than that in the cases (i)(iv). One sees that the rst ve electron spectra in gure 2 are similar to those in gure 1. However, the last four spectra in gure 2 are new. This corresponds to the ladder similarity. The geometrical similarity is illustrated in gure 3.

5. Conclusions In this section, we recapitulate the most important results of the developed similarity theory for ultra-relativistic laserplasmas and provide some simple engineering scalings for electron acceleration in the bubble regime. (i) Ultra-relativistic laserplasma interactions with different a0 and ne/nc are similar as soon as the similarity parameter SZne/a0ncZconst. for these interactions. In this case, electron energies scale as Ee fa0 and the number of accelerated electrons also scale as Ntr fa0.
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Ne in 1% energy range

6 7 8 9 21010 1 2 4 3 5

5 10 energy (GeV)


Figure 2. Electron energy spectra obtained in the simulation (v) (see text). The control points 19 were taken after the propagation distances L1Z800l, L2Z1600l, L3Z2400l, L4Z3200l, L5Z4000l, L6Z4800l, L7Z5600l, L8Z6400l, L9Z7200l. The spectral evolution for the control points 15 is similar to that of the simulation cases (i)(iv). The spectra 69 correspond to a new evolution that cannot be directly scaled from the previous simulations.

Figure 3. Electron density ne/nc and normalized intensity I distribution showing the geometrical similarity. Frames for the cases (i)(iv) are taken at the distance LZ700. Frame for the case (v) is taken at the distance LZ2800.

(ii) The present work states that the bubble acceleration regime is stable and scalable. (iii) Starting with the Maxwell equations on the elds and the relativistic Vlasov equation on the electron distribution function we were able to derive engineering scalings for the electron acceleration.
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Here, we list the most important scalings once again. The similarity theory tells us that the optimal radius R of the laser pulse is k0 R zS K1=2 : 5:1

For the acceleration to be efcient and to generate structured (quasimonoenergetic) electron energy spectra, the pulse duration t must be t% R=c: Looking at the scalings (1.1)(1.2) one mentions that the plasma density does not appear explicitly. Rather, everything is dened by the laser pulse parameters: the power P and the duration t. This is the consequence of the pulse radius scaling (5.1) corresponding to the bubble regime. With a given laser pulse, the bubble regime is achievable only in some density range n1!ne!n2. The lower density limit n1 is dened by the condition that the laser pulse is still ultra-relativistic, a1 O1 when focused to the corresponding focal spot p k0 R1 Z a1 nc =n1 . The upper density limit is dened by the condition that the p corresponding focal spot equals the pulse duration: u0 tZ k0 R2 Z a2 nc =n2 . This density range can be expressed via the laser parameters: s P rel P 1 n1 znc ; n2 znc : 5:2 P rel u0 t P The density range (5.2) exists only when the laser power is large enough: P O P rel u0 t2 : 5:3

The condition (5.3) can be considered as the threshold power needed to reach the bubble regime for a laser pulse with the given duration t. In practical units, this threshold power is   tfs 2 P O P bubble Z !30 GW: 5:4 lmm In conclusion, we hope that the developed non-trivial similarity theory will help to make another step towards a practical realization of a compact highenergy laserplasma electron accelerator.
This work was supported in parts by the Transregio project TR-18 of DFG (Germany) and by RFFI 04-02-16972, NSH-2045.2003.2 (Russia).

Birkhoff, G. 1960 Hydrodynamics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Connor, J. W. & Taylor, B. 1977 Nucl. Fusion 17, 1047. Faure, J., Glinec, Y., Pukhov, A. et al. 2004 Nature 431, 541. (doi:10.1038/nature02963) Gedder, C. G. R., Toth, Cs., Van Tilborg, J. et al. 2004 Nature 431, 538. (doi:10.1038/ nature02900) Gordienko, S. & Pukhov, A. 2005 Phys. Plasmas 12, 043109. (doi:10.1063/1.1884126) Jackson, J. D. 1999 Classical electrodynamics, 3rd edn. New York: Wiley. Kadomtsev, B. B. 1975 Sov. J. Plasma Phys. 1, 295.
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Katsouleas, Th. 2004 Nature 431, 515. (doi:10.1038/431515a) Lackner, K. et al. 1994 Plasma Phys. Control. Fusion 36, 879. Malka, V. 2004 Europhys. News 35, 2. Mangles, S. P. D. et al. 2004 Nature 431, 535. (doi:10.1038/nature02939) Pukhov, A. 1999 J. Plasma Phys. 61, 425. (doi:10.1017/S0022377899007515) Pukhov, A. & Meyer-ter-Vehn, J. 2002 Appl. Phys. B 74, 355. (doi:10.1007/s003400200795) Sedov, L. I. 1993 Similarity and dimensional methods in mechanics, 10th edn. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

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