Current and past projects
Longwave infrared drivers of laser driven accelerators
Research in laser driven accelerators typically utilise near-IR pulses, but there are benefits in using longer laser wavelengths which enables the use of lower density plasmas, boosting some accelerator properties. I am interested in using long wave infrared high power CO2 lasers to experimentally develop repetitive ion accelerators. Using longer wavelengths reduces the plasma critical density, the density at which the plasma becomes opaque to the light, to densities ~100 times lower than the more ubiquitous near-IR pulses. This enables new techniques and avenues for high power laser driven ion acceleration.
Ion acceleration from gas jets
One advantage of reducing the plasma critical density is the possibility to use gas jets as simple targetry for ion acceleration, providing close control of target parameters and an inherently debris free, single species and repetitive ion source.
High intensity laser foil interaction
High power lasers focussed to small focal spots onto thin foils can create some of the highest ever man-made energy densities. At focus, the laser has extremely strong electric and magnetic fields which exceed the fields used in huge particle accelerators like the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland by over a million times. Applying these fields to micron-scale targets results in ultrafast heating and particle acceleration. The laser-plasma physics can be highly non-linear, but understanding and optimising these interactions is the key to generating high energy, high flux ion beams. I investigate the coupling of intense laser pulses to electrons and optimise the ensuing ion acceleration.
Modelling of laser driven ion sources
As well as experiments, I am also interested in all aspects of numerical modelling of laser driven ion acceleration, including hydrodynamic codes like FLASH and particle-in-cell codes like EPOCH. This allows simulations of everything from gas targetry, the effect of laser prepulse on the target, all the way up to high fidelity modelling of the relativistic high intensity laser interaction.