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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/M014746/1
Title: Impact of relativistic transparency on high intensity laser matter interactions
Principal Investigator: Jung, Dr D
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Sch of Mathematics and Physics
Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Scheme: First Grant - Revised 2009
Starts: 01 February 2015 Ends: 31 July 2016 Value (£): 98,923
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Lasers & Optics
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
25 Sep 2014 EPSRC Physical Sciences Physics - September 2014 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Summary of research for a general audience:

Since the first realization of a Laser over half a century ago, the science of laser-matter interaction has developed into one of the largest and most exciting research areas. When laser light is focused to a spot with diameter of only a few microns - that is less than one tenth of the width of a human hair - intensities exceeding 10^20 W/cm^2 can be reached. To achieve that, a single laser delivers the power equivalent to one million million laser pointer for a tiny fraction of a second (several fs, or 10^-15s). Matter irradiated with this intensity instantly turns into an extremely hot plasma.

In these plasmas, most electrons have been ripped apart from their atoms (which are now negatively charged ions) by the laser light and been accelerated to relativistic velocities very close to the speed of light. Under these conditions many interesting phenomena arise with exciting application possibilities. One of them is the acceleration of ions to energies suitable for ion fast ignition (a variant of the conventional ignition concept pursued at the national ignition facility) or for the hadron cancer therapy, where tumours are destroyed by bombardment with energetic ions.

Currently, the energies of such laser-accelerated ions and the efficiency are not sufficient for most of these applications and researchers all over the globe are investigating novel techniques and methods to realize these applications.

In the proposed research we focus on the laser interaction with nanometer-scaled targets (one thousands of the width of a human hair). In these interactions plasmas are created that turn relativistically transparent to the laser light. This special case of transparency arises due to the relativistic mass increase of the electrons when they reach velocities close to the speed of light. This allows the laser light to interact with a large and very dense plasma volume, which significantly increases the transfer of laser light into electrons, creating very energetic ions. The research aims at understanding the complex interplay between specific laser light and target properties to control the dynamics that lead to a relativistic transparent laser plasma interaction. The exploitation of these dynamics will allows us to increase the efficiency and energy of laser-driven ions to levels suitable for advanced applications in medicine (cancer therapy) and energy generation (ion fast ignition).

Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.qub.ac.uk