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Title: Creation and study of matter in extreme conditions by high-intensity free-electron laser radiation
Author: Vinko, Sam M.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2728 594X
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2011
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The recent development of free-electron lasers operating at XUV and X-ray wavelengths are proving vital for the exploration of matter in extreme conditions. The ultra-short pulse length and high peak brightness these light sources provide, combined with a tunable X-ray wavelength range, makes them ideally suited both for creating high energy density samples and for their subsequent study. In this thesis I describe the work done on the XUV free-electron laser FLASH in Hamburg, aimed at creating homogeneous samples of warm dense matter through the process of volumetric XUV photo-absorption, and the theoretical work undertaken to understand the process of high-intensity laser-matter interactions. As a first step, we have successfully demonstrated intensities above 1017 Wcm-2 at a wavelength of 13.5 nm, by focusing the FEL beam to micron and sub-micron spot sizes by means of a multilayer-coated off-axis parabolic mirror. Using these record high intensities, we have demonstrated for the first time saturable absorption in the XUV. The effect was observed in aluminium and magnesium samples and is due to the bleaching of a core-state absorption channel by the intense radiation field. This result has major implications for the creation of homogeneous high energy density systems, as a saturable absorption channel allows for a more homogeneous heating mechanism than previously thought possible. Further, we have conducted soft X-ray emission spectroscopy measurements which have delivered a wealth of information on the highly photo-excited system under irradiation, immediately after the excitation pulse, yet before the system evolves into the warm dense matter state. Such strongly photo-excited samples have also been studied theoretically, by means of density functional theory coupled to molecular dynamics calculations, yielding detailed electronic structure information. The use of emission spectroscopy as a probe for solid-density and finite-temperature systems is discussed in light of these results. Theoretical efforts have further been made in the study of the free-free absorption of aluminium as the system evolves from the solid state to warm dense matter. We predict an absorption peak in temperature as the system heats and forms a dense plasma. The physical significance of this effect is discussed in terms of intense light-matter interactions on both femtosecond and picosecond time-scales.
Supervisor: Wark, Justin Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Condensed Matter Physics ; Atomic and laser physics ; X-ray ; laser ; electronic structure ; intense radiation ; matter in extreme conditions ; opacity ; plasma ; free-electron ; spectroscopy ; high energy-density