My research and that of my group concentrates on the design and analysis of experiments fielded on high-power lasers and pulsed-power machines. These experiments produce, in miniature and for a very short time, extreme plasma conditions similar to those found in a variety of astrophysical objects. This subject is known as High Energy Density Physics.
As well as being of wide scientific interest this work is also of relevance to the study of Inertial Confinement Fusion in which thermonuclear fusion energy is generated in the laboratory using plasmas of high energy density. Recent work, undertaken with Peter Hatfield and Robbie Scott, has used machine-learning to design inertial confinement fusion targets through the use of a genetic algorithm. We have also shown that if ignition and burn can be achieved in the laboratory this will provide new opportunities for experiments that probe fundamental physics ranging from particle physics through atomic and nuclear physics to stellar structure and on to cosmology.
Our work on using high-power lasers to create matter from light using the two-photon Breit-Wheeler process can be found in our Nature Photonics paper and an example of media coverage can be found in this BBC news website article and on the Wikipedia page. Recent experiments which have attempted to demonstrate the process are currently being analysed.
Research Student Supervision
Beesley,J, Can the Schwinger mechanism produce pairs in a black-body radiation field?
Burridge,D, Investigation into the atomic physics of plasmas