Structure factors in warm dense matter

Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Department Name: Sch of Mathematics and Physics


In this research we intend to explore the properties of matter under conditions of high density at temperatures of about 5,000-100,000K. These conditions are relevant to the interiors of planets and understanding more about the microscopic structure and other properties of such matter will help in understanding the structure and formation of planets.

We will conduct the research, principally, by using high power lasers to create such "warm dense matter" conditions by driving shock waves of millions of atmospheres pressure into sample foils. We will probe the material using intense short pulses of X-rays. By observing the distribution of scattered X-rays we will be able to infer the short range arrangements of the ions in the sample and thus infer information about the ion-ion potential. By extracting this information, we would, in principle, be able to extract further information about the bulk properties such as electrical and thermal conductivities and compressibility.

Planned Impact

The work proposed in this project is, by its nature, academic science and thus connection to potential economic impact is remote at present. Concerning the general public outside of the scientific community the possible longer term impact is as follows:

A perusal of news stories and television documentaries will reveal that there is a huge public appetite for science related to astronomy. Indeed, there is a very active amateur astronomy community; The Sky at Night is one of the longest running TV shows in the world.

Our work on the structure of warm dense matter is very closely related to the planetary and astrophysical sciences. An understanding of warm dense matter - be it water, hydrogen, ices or heavier materials such as iron, is essential to the understanding of planetary structure and crucially their formation. There are currently hundreds of known exo-solar planets. These are mostly large planets, probably gas giants. A better undertsanding of planetary formation and structure may help improve estimates of the number that may be Earth-like and understanding warm dense matter is a part of this process. Thus, we assert that our work is closely related to science that the public has an interest in. Such public interest is in turn good for science generally. The TARANIS laser, which forms a key part of the research programme is itself a significant part of our outreach programme in that, on open days, UCAS days and other events where young people visit our department, it is a key stop-off point on the tour of the department. It has hosted young researchers on summer internships and is well integrated into our 4th year MSci undergraduate projects programme.

Concerning the academic community we shall seek to make an impact in the following ways. We shall attend conferences with specific audiences in mind. For example, we have sought funds to attend the Radiative Properties of Hot Dense Matter conferences. These are held every 18 months and are small (100 delegates) meetings of specialists in our field. These are the people most likely to cite our work and getting them to see our results first hand will raise the citation profile of our EPSRC funded work and help encourage leading scientists to consider collaborative efforts with us.

In recent years, we have been successful in generating such collaborations. We have carried out experiments at Osaka, LULI, LLNL and FLASH as well as VULCAN. These are collaborations with The University of Oxford, Stanford University, Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, Technical University of Darmstadt, DESY, Ecole Polytechnique, ILE Osaka and others. These have led to publications in Physical Review Letters and Nature Physics. Application for beam time on all these facilities is open to us and forms part of our work plan.

We will also attend the European Physical Society conferences. These are much larger (700 delegates) meetings of researchers from all branches of plasma physics. This will help raise the profile of our sub-field of warm dense matter within the plasma community generally. Finally, we will attend national meetings (IOP Plasma Physics Conference). This is a national meeting of the plasma community and will allow us to disseminate our work to colleagues who may have input into national priorities in funding and facilities.


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Description To further understanding of matter in extreme conditions. In particular the modelling of shock compressed Fe is relevant to understanding this material in extreme conditions such as the interior of telluric planets.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Education,Other
Impact Types Cultural,Societal