My work focusses on the design and maintenance of codes to predict the spectroscopic properties of high energy density material - answering questions about what, and how much, radiation they absorb and emit, and what that can tell us about the conditions in the material.
In the High Energy Density Physics (HEDP) group at Imperial, we develop codes which can accurately model relatively well understood high energy density experiments here on Earth, where matter is compressed to many times solid density and heated to millions of degrees Celsius. Using these same codes we can then determine the conditions in similar plasmas encountered in more remote or difficult to diagnose situations such as in the centre of the Sun, in the plasmas surrounding black holes, or in the complex, integrated experiments aiming to achieve fusion here on Earth. In these high temperature materials, the radiation field is often important both as a diagnostic and because of its effect on the properties of the material - and these are the areas I specialise in.
Radiation fields created in HEDP and laser experiments are also interesting as tools in their own right, particularly in recent years as their photon number density has become very large and the energy of the individual photons has become very high. These very high energy photons carry enough energy that, when released, it can create matter, since, through E=mc2, matter and energy are in some sense interchangeable. This allows us to propose HEDP experiments which can probe high energy physics and particle physics, and in particular to allow the observation of the 'Breit-Wheeler process' - the direct creation of matter from light, and a fundamental prediction of modern physics - which has never been observed in the laboratory.