The Creation and Diagnosis of Solid-State Matter at Multi-TeraPascal Pressures

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of Physics and Astronomy


We aim to exploit our expertise in laser-induced dynamic compression and x-ray diffraction to make the first ever structural studies of solid matter above 1 TPa (10 megabars) using the JANUS, OMEGA, and National Ignition Facility (NIF) laser platforms in the US. At such pressures, the compression energy is sufficient to break all chemical bonds, providing a regime where new physics and chemistry are predicted to occur. By developing optimised target designs and x-ray diffraction facilities, we will collect high-quality diffraction data on nano-second timescales, and, aided by theory and computation, will determine the structures and phase transitions in a number of fundamental materials to an upper pressure of 3 TPa - almost 10 times higher than the maximum pressure attainable using static compression techniques. We plan to apply these developments to (1) studies of the structures and transitions in carbon (diamond) to 3 TPa, searching for transitions to the metallic BC8 phase, and the creation of super-hard metastable phases of carbon at ambient pressure; (2) studies of the 'simple' metals Na and Li to 3 TPa, searching for metal-insulator and insulator-metal transitions, and the appearance of electride structure-types as valence electrons and cores on neighbouring atoms are forced to overlap; and (3) studies of the onset of "cold-melting" and a liquid ground-state in lithium as a result of the relative enhancement of the zero-point energy at high compression.
Description The grant was funded to investigate the use of x-ray diffraction to study dynamically-compressed matter. We have used the Orion, JANUS and Omega lasers, and the LCLS XFEL, and these have led to a successful proposal to use the National Ignition Facility in 2017. Diffraction data from the LCLS are excellent, and our results are strongly guiding our science programme for the European-XFEL from 2018. We have shown from the LCLS data that complex phases are formed within 1 nanosecond, and that the LCLS data are good enough to determine the structure ab initio. Our first NIF shot was a great success and gave excellent data.
Exploitation Route We believe our LCLS results will guide later experiments on the European-XFEL. We are currently applying for a large Programme Grant to fund research at Euro-XFEL, and the results from the grant will feature heavily in the application
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine

Description The findings from the LCLS have been presented to AWE as a demonstration of how the techniques utilized can benefit their own research programme.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine
Impact Types Policy & public services

Description STFC FEL Review
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Description AWE 
Organisation Atomic Weapons Establishment
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We have participated in joint experiments at the Orion laser
Collaborator Contribution They have participated in beamtime They have constructed targets They have awarded a fellowship to the PI
Impact Joint publication subnitted
Start Year 2011
Description LLNL 
Organisation Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Country United States of America 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have collaborated with LLNL on experiments at LCLS and on the JANUS laser. We have submitted successful beamtime applications with them to Omega and NIF
Collaborator Contribution They have helped twith target preparation, hand-on help during experiments, and advise on data analysis and simulations
Impact Successful beam time applications Publications
Description Los Alamos National Lab 
Organisation Los Alamos National Laboratory
Country United States of America 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We wrote the science case for the experiment at the LCLS, and were successful in obtaining the beamtime.
Collaborator Contribution Researchers from LANL attended experiments at the LCLS x-ray laser. They played an invaluable role in sample preparation, data analysis and data collection.
Impact 10.1103/PhysRevLett.118.025501
Start Year 2016