Urgency support for novel VULCAN laser experiments to recreate a Seyfert galaxy in the laboratory

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


We plan truly novel VULCAN experiments at the Central Laser Facility (CLF) to create the highest photoionisation parameter plasmas ever produced in the laboratory, using hard X-ray line emission as opposed to the normal quasi-continuum radiation source. This will allow the investigation of the effects of a radiation field on a plasma in a far larger energy density regime than previously possible. In particular we will, for the first time in the laboratory, properly recreate the extreme conditions found in accretion-powered astrophysical X-ray sources, such as Seyfert galaxies, of major interest and importance to the STFC astronomy community.

We have been awarded 5 weeks of time on the VULCAN laser for our experiments, from 25 July to 29 August 2016 (Proposal ID = 16110002; PI = Keenan). However, our current STFC Consolidated Grant is not due for renewal until April 2017 (application due in February 2016), and we have no spare resource in the Grant to use to support the experimental work. Hence here we seek modest funds (3 months of PDRA support) to undertake some work in advance of the experimental campaign (e.g. prepare spectrometers at Queen's University, plus transport and help set these up at the CLF), as well as undertaking the experiments at the CLF. We note that resources for the analysis of the VULCAN experimental data, and to support future experimental campaigns for this research project, will be sought as part of our Consolidated Grant renewal application.

Planned Impact

Our work will also be of relevance to those plasma physicists studying the interaction of matter with very intense radiation fields. Non-academic benefactors will hence be researchers at establishments such as AWE Aldermaston, who undertake work in related areas.


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White S. (2020) Generation of photoionized plasmas in the laboratory: Analogues to astrophysical sources in Laboratory Astrophysics: From Observations to Interpretation

Description International Exchanges
Amount £11,525 (GBP)
Funding ID IE161039 
Organisation The Royal Society 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2017 
End 03/2019
Description STFC Astronomy Grants
Amount £2,371,437 (GBP)
Funding ID ST/P000312/1 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2017 
End 03/2020
Description Collaboration with Chinese staff at Beijing Astrophysical Observatory on SG-II laser. 
Organisation Beijing Astrophysical Observatory
Country China 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Joint award of laser time on SG-II laser in China, as a followup to the VULCAN laser time supported by the STFC grant.
Collaborator Contribution Jointly prepared proposal for SG-II time and jointly ran the experiments in November 2017.
Impact None - a paper has been submitted to the journal Plasma Sources Science and Technology, but is not yet accepted.
Start Year 2016