PhD project: Transforming Matter with Powerful Lasers: Uncovering Stars and Planets in the Laboratory

Project description

The largest lasers on Earth – such as the National Ignition Facility in the U.S.A. and the Orion laser of the U.K. – create the temperatures and pressures found inside planets and stars by illuminating matter for a brief instant with extremely powerful radiation pulses.   In the nanoseconds after materials are compressed and before they explode, new and unusual types of matter appear, which can be studied with fast measurements.  Insulators (such as silica glass) transform to metals, whereas metals can transform to insulators; melting temperatures rise above 10,000 °C producing crystals with electron-volt thermal energies; chemical bonds rapidly reconfigure in the hot, dense conditions, and break entirely as matter becomes a plasma. In this project, you will use rapidly advancing techniques in laser-driven compression to create and study such novel states of matter at pressures and temperatures never before seen in the laboratory.  New technologies such as femtosecond free electron lasers will be used to observe these states of matter in unprecedented detail. The materials discovered in these experiments then tell us how matter is transformed in nature in the deep interiors of celestial bodies.          

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