Nonlinear evolution of the ablative Rayleigh–Taylor instability (ARTI) is investigated on the Shenguang-II laser facility using a target specifically designed for this purpose. The evolution of the excited bubbles and spikes is tracked and their displacement amplitudes are quantitatively measured with the help of a Kirkpatrick–Baez microscope coupled with an x-ray framing camera. Radiation-hydrodynamic simulations are qualitatively in agreement with the experiments and demonstrate the phenomenon of bubble acceleration predicted by Betti and Sanz [Phys. Rev. Lett. 97, 205002 (2006)] in the nonlinear evolution of the ARTI.

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