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.


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Description We have discovered that complex structural forms of matter are created on nano-second timescales at extreme pressures and temperatures. This was unknown prior to our work, and the results have since formed the basis of a new successful funding application to EPSRC in 2018.

Our results at the LCLS have established the UK as a leader in the field of XFEL studies of matter at extreme conditions. We will develope this further at the European-XFEL in Hamburg from 2020.

The students and postdocs funded by this award have been highly sought after by other labs once they had finished in Edinburgh. Three are currently postdocs at Lawrence Livermore National Lab in the US, another is a fellow at the SLAC National Accelerator Lab, and another is a researcher at DESY.
Exploitation Route Our continuation funding from EPSRC requested explicit funding to further develop UK research at the European-XFEL. We see this as a key impact of our new grant.
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. As a result, they are very interested in becoming involved in the European-XFEL research programme from 2018. This has resulted in the award of a CASE top-up from AWE for an EPSRC studentship starting in Sept 2019 The results of the research obtained in this award form part of the science case for a UK-FEL, to be submitted in mid-2020.
First Year Of Impact 2018
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 Exploiting the European XFEL for a New Generation of High Energy Density and Materials Science
Amount £659,756 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/S022155/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2019 
End 01/2023
Description AWE 
Organisation Atomic Weapons Establishment
Country United Kingdom 
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 
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 
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