EPSRC logo

Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/X031624/1
Title: Femtosecond X-Ray Diffraction Studies of Crystalline Matter Deforming under Extreme Loading
Principal Investigator: Wark, Professor J
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Dr P Heighway
Project Partners:
AWE Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Department: Oxford Physics
Organisation: University of Oxford
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 January 2024 Ends: 31 December 2026 Value (£): 497,643
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Eng. Dynamics & Tribology Materials Processing
Materials testing & eng.
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
03 May 2023 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 3 and 4 May 2023 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
X-ray free-electron lasers (XFELs) are the most brilliant sources of x-rays on Earth. The highly coherent, near-monochromatic, sub-picosecond bursts of radiation they deliver make them the ultimate 'high-speed camera', capable of capturing extremely fast, atomic-level phenomena as they unfold in unprecedented detail. XFELs are therefore ideally suited to probing matter undergoing laser-based dynamic compression, whereby one or more high-power optical lasers rapidly vaporise the surface of a solid target, launching into it a compression wave that generates internal stresses many millions of times greater than atmospheric pressure. During the few billionths of a second for which they survive before being disintegrated, these targets reach extreme pressures of the kind ordinarily encountered only in planetary interiors, and experience rates of deformation rivalling those of meteoric impact events. By illuminating these short-lived samples with extremely bright XFEL pulses, we can generate x-ray diffraction or absorption spectra rich with information about their atomic arrangement, structure, and dynamics in the moments before their destruction. This ability to diagnose the dynamic response of matter under extraordinary thermodynamic conditions is transforming experimental high-pressure physics, allowing us to better understand not only the internal structure, formation, and collision dynamics of planetary bodies, but how to synthesise and recover exotic high-pressure phases of matter, and how engineering alloys and ceramics respond to the huge dynamic stresses created by hypervelocity impacts.

In this project, we aim to leverage the diagnostic power of the recently commissioned European XFEL (EuXFEL), an international XFEL facility backed by a consortium of twelve countries to which the UK has committed approximately £30M in capital to date. We will exploit the EuXFEL to shed new light on the plasticity and strength of model metals dynamically deforming at extreme pressures and strain rates. Our aim is to take the 'ordinary' physical processes controlling plastic deformation that materials scientists have studied for over a century, and to examine them under the 'extraordinary' thermodynamic conditions accessible via dynamic compression. Using the UK-built, high-repetition-rate, £8M DiPOLE-100 laser recently installed at EuXFEL, we will laser-compress a range of metals and alloys to planetary pressures over nanosecond timescales at an unprecedented shot rate. We will use femtosecond x-ray diffraction to measure the ultrafast rotation experienced by our samples' microstructure, and use it to identify the plasticity mechanisms that relieve the colossal shear stresses accumulated during compression. From these same diffraction measurements, we will extract the strain state of our metallic samples, allowing us to measure their dynamic strength at extreme strain rates. We will also use EuXFEL to study these samples' x-ray absorption properties under extreme loading, with which we can track their temperature dynamics in situ. Together, these XFEL-enabled experimental measurements of plasticity mechanisms, strength, and temperature evolution have the potential to transform our understanding of material deformation physics under extreme loading conditions.
Key Findings
This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Potential use in non-academic contexts
This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Description This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Date Materialised
Sectors submitted by the Researcher
This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Project URL:  
Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.ox.ac.uk