High Power Laser Group

Group Leaders:

Our group is one of the leading groups in the world researching into the interactions between ultra-high power optical and X-ray lasers with matter.

The optical (visible and infra-red) lasers we use are amongst the most powerful in the world. The peak power output can be up to 30 times the electrical output of the whole planet! When focused, the electric field of the light can greatly exceed the Coulomb field binding electrons to nuclei, and the light can obviously no longer be treated as a perturbation to the atom.

These optical lasers can also be used to subject matter to enormous pressures, and one of the key areas of our research work is the generation and diagnosis of matter at conditions which are similar to those found towards the centre of the giant planets.

As well as using extremely powerful optical lasers, we are one of the leading groups in the UK utilising the world’s first X-ray laser facilities - the soft X-ray laser FLASH, which is based in Hamburg Germany, and the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) based in Stanford, California. These X-ray lasers have a spectral brightness ten billion times greater than any X-ray source previously in existence on the planet, and we have played a key role in developing experimental and theoretical understanding of how such intense X-ray light interacts with matter.

Much of our research program is aimed at using ultra-short (femtosecond to nanosecond) X-ray pulses to study the extreme states of matter that we create, and the primary tool of interest is X-ray diffraction. To back up our experimental work we also undertake large simulations. For example, the transient high pressure experiments are modelled with multi-million atom classical molecular dynamics simulations, as well as Quantum Calculations based on Density Functional Theory.