We measure the shock drive capabilities of a 30 J, nanosecond, 527 nm laser system at the matter in extreme conditions hutch of the Linac Coherent Light Source. Using a velocity interferometer system for any reflector, we ascertain the maximum instantaneous ablation pressure and characterize its dependence on a drive laser spot size, spatial profile, and temporal profile. We also examine the effects of these parameters on shock spatial and temporal uniformity. Our analysis shows the drive laser capable of generating instantaneous ablation pressures exceeding 160 GPa while maintaining a 1D shock profile. We find that slope pulses provide higher instantaneous ablation pressures than plateau pulses. Our results show instantaneous ablation pressures comparable to those measured at the Omega Laser Facility in Rochester, NY under similar optical drive parameters. Finally, we analyze how optical laser ablation pressures are compare with known scaling relations, accounting for variable laser wavelengths.

For scientists studying planetary interiors and inertial confinement fusion, creation of high-pressure (P), high-temperature (T) environments in the laboratory remains an area of active research and development. Advancements in high-power optical laser technology enabled laser-driven ramp and shockwave compression as techniques that can simultaneously create high P-T conditions. For example, experiments at the National Ignition Facility, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, accessed pressure regimes exceeding five TPa by ramp compressing an initial 0.1 TPa laser-driven shock.1 The dynamic nature of these experiments facilitates studies of compression kinetics and dynamic material properties, but the experimental environments are sensitive to variations in laser drive profile, energy, and wavelength. To address these sensitivities, several previous studies employed ablators and metallic flash coatings.2–6 

At the same time, the emergence of x-ray free electron lasers (XFELs) enabled multiple x-ray diagnostics capable of probing the extreme conditions produced by laser-driven shockwaves with high temporal and spatial resolution.7,8 Located at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) produces coherent x-rays in a range of fundamental wavelengths between 0.5 and 11.2 keV. These photon energies can image and diffract from solid and near-solid targets; with a maximum of 4 mJ energy and a repetition rate of 120 Hz, the LCLS is ideal for the so-called “photon-hungry” experiments that require fluxes as high as 1012 photons per pulse.9 The Matter in Extreme Conditions (MEC) hutch of the LCLS contains specialized diagnostics for single-shot x-ray focusing, diffraction, and phase contrast imaging, which reveal the structure and dynamics of materials under shock compression.10 The LCLS produces x-ray pulses of ∼60 fs duration or shorter, allowing for detailed time scans of shock formation, evolution, and propagation in a material over picosecond and nanosecond time scales.9,11 The x-ray beam can be focused to spot sizes of 2-50 μm, which permits tunable probing of sample states before, during, and after shockwave propagation.12 The small diameter of the LCLS beam even enables investigation of “small volume” shocks, which are created by high intensity drive lasers with spot sizes <100 μm on the target.

The purpose of this study is to characterize the maximum instantaneous laser ablation pressure that can be created at the MEC hutch of the LCLS using a 30 J laser in a generic sample. It examines how instantaneous ablation pressure and shock spatial and temporal uniformity varied with the MEC drive laser intensity, laser spatial profile (with and without phase plates), and pulse temporal profile (plateau and slope-shaped pulses). The results are compared to experiments from the Omega Laser Facility in Rochester, NY and predictions from ablation models.13,14

The MEC hutch of the LCLS provided a frequency-doubled Nd-Glass optical drive laser (λ = 527 nm). The setup consisted of a two-arm system with each arm delivering approximately 1 J per 1 ns. Combining the arms resulted in shapeable optical drive pulses 2–25 ns in duration with the repetition rate of 1 shot every 7 min.

The drive laser spot on the target could be adjusted between 100 and 500 μm in diameter. To irradiate the sample with a uniform intensity distribution, Scitech hybrid phase plates for 100 μm, 250 μm, and 500 μm beam diameters were inserted directly before the final focusing lens. These plates have surfaces with binary (0 and π) phase patterns that generate focal spots with “top-hat” intensity profiles.15 The focal spot envelope depends on the phase plate element characteristics.16 To create beams with more Gaussian intensity distributions, the drive laser was defocused before the sample with no phase plate present. Beam profiles of a 100 μm spot size (with and without phase plates) are shown in Fig. 1(a). As shown in Fig. 1(b), 100 μm, 250 μm, and 500 μm diameter beams created with phase plates showed comparable speckle size across their respective focal spot envelopes.

FIG. 1.

(a) Beam spatial profiles for 100 μm drive laser with and without phase plates. Speckle size through the phase plates was ∼9.7 μm, and spatial calibration was performed to ±3 μm. Relative intensity lineouts of each drive laser spatial image show the “top hat” and quasi-Gaussian profiles. (b) Beam spatial profiles for drive laser created with 100 μm, 250 μm, and 500 μm phase plates. (c) Beam temporal profiles for a 10 ns optical laser pulse recorded via the photodiode connected to an oscilloscope.

FIG. 1.

(a) Beam spatial profiles for 100 μm drive laser with and without phase plates. Speckle size through the phase plates was ∼9.7 μm, and spatial calibration was performed to ±3 μm. Relative intensity lineouts of each drive laser spatial image show the “top hat” and quasi-Gaussian profiles. (b) Beam spatial profiles for drive laser created with 100 μm, 250 μm, and 500 μm phase plates. (c) Beam temporal profiles for a 10 ns optical laser pulse recorded via the photodiode connected to an oscilloscope.

Close modal

In this experiment, each laser pulse was approximately 10 ns in duration with a plateau or slope temporal profile as shown in Fig. 1(c). These profiles were created with a Kentech Instruments optical laser pulse shaper, which generates user-specified waveforms with shot-to-shot reproducibility of ±10%. The pulse energy on a shot-to-shot basis was measured upstream and calibrated by measuring pulse energy at the target position. The root-mean-squared variation in laser pulse energy remained relatively low (<6% for plateau pulses and <8% for slope pulses) throughout the experiment. The integrated laser energy measured before the final focusing lens for each two-arm shot averaged 32.2 ± 2.4 J over 31 shots.

The laser ablation process drove shockwaves through targets consisting of 25 μm thick DuPont CB black Kapton backed by 400 μm thick lithium fluoride (LiF) windows as shown in Fig. 2(a). The black Kapton ablator (referenced as CH in diagrams) is a high-density plastic that efficiently transfers momentum from the ablated material into the shock region.17 The black Kapton also provided an opaque volume that reduced transmission of the optical drive beam through the ablator/LiF interface. Any transmitted drive laser light decreased the quality of the velocimetry data, which was the primary pressure diagnostic. Used as a window material, LiF demonstrated good optical transmission to the pressure diagnostic and provided a stable backing environment without adverse melting effects up to 160 GPa. Samples received several layers of 200–600 nm aluminum flash coating to reduce preheating effects from the optical laser and increase rear sample reflectivity for better velocity interferometer system for any reflector (VISAR) data.

FIG. 2.

(a) Experimental diagram showing the MEC 10 ns drive beam incident from the top. A 400 μm lithium fluoride (LiF) window was affixed to the back of a black Kapton ablator (CH) with an intermediate aluminum flash coating to increase reflectivity of the rear surface. (b) A low-power λ = 532 nm VISAR beam passed through the LiF window and reflected off the aluminum flash coating, creating interference patterns that resolved the velocity time history of the ablator/LiF interface.

FIG. 2.

(a) Experimental diagram showing the MEC 10 ns drive beam incident from the top. A 400 μm lithium fluoride (LiF) window was affixed to the back of a black Kapton ablator (CH) with an intermediate aluminum flash coating to increase reflectivity of the rear surface. (b) A low-power λ = 532 nm VISAR beam passed through the LiF window and reflected off the aluminum flash coating, creating interference patterns that resolved the velocity time history of the ablator/LiF interface.

Close modal

To extract the ablation pressure, a low-power λ = 532 nm laser delivering 5 mJ in a 100 ns pulse passed through the rear of the optically transparent LiF window and reflected off the aluminum coating at the ablator/LiF interface. As a shockwave propagated through the sample, the reflected light acquired a Doppler shift proportional to the interface velocity. The Doppler-shifted reflected beam was sent through a beamsplitter into two separate Velocity Interferometer System for Any Reflector (VISAR) beds.18 Fused silica etalons inserted into the two VISAR beam paths determined the interferometer delay times and specified the velocity-per-fringe (VPF) values used to extract interface speed. Four etalons with thicknesses of 8.087 mm, 11.006 mm, 25.034 mm, and 38.085 mm provided VPFs of 6143 m/s, 4514 m/s, 1984 m/s, and 1304 m/s, respectively. Varying the etalon thicknesses in each bed generated two distinct and independent measurements of the ablator/LiF interface velocity.

The VISAR interference fringes were recorded on a Hamamatsu C7700 optical streak camera. For each experiment, the time sweep of recorded data was set between 20 and 50 ns to resolve the shock front whose total duration never exceeded 15 ns. The VISAR spatial field of view covered 265 μm of the sample in the lateral dimension and could be adjusted to position the diagnostic on the center of the shock. The white light alignment sensitivity of the VISAR system was <2 μm, and the Hamamatsu C7700 optical streak camera had a high dynamic range of 1500:1 as well as temporal resolution <100 ps for all recorded sweep windows. During calibration, an auxiliary mirror inserted at the target position sent the drive beams into the VISAR system to identify the time of initial laser incidence on the target. Figure 2(b) shows a sample VISAR interference fringe pattern and the extracted interface velocity time history.

Analysis of VISAR interference fringes allows resolution of shifts ∼2% of each fringe, which corresponds to a particle velocity resolution between 50 and 70 m/s. With an interferometry fringe spatial size of 10 μm, this VISAR system resolves velocity variations with spatial periods longer than 20 μm. Measurements of the particle velocity convert to pressure along the known shock Hugoniot as pressure P and particle velocity up are related via the jump condition for conservation of momentum in the following equation:

P=ρ0Usup.
(1)

Us is the shock velocity and ρ0 is the unshocked CH density of 1.414 ± 0.2 g/cm3. In this pressure regime, the shock velocity fits as a linear function of the particle velocity as shown in the following equation:19 

Us=C+Sup.
(2)

C is the speed of sound in CH (2.72 μm/ns), and S is the slope of the shock Hugoniot (2.112).19 Combining Eqs. (1) and (2) yields Eq. (3), which relates the pressure and particle velocity. The resulting pressures are reported in units of pascal (Pa) where 100 GPa is equivalent to 1 Mbar,

P=ρ0Cup+Sup2.
(3)

This experiment recorded the full particle velocity history of the examined laser-driven shockwaves, measured the maximum particle velocity values, and calculated the maximum instantaneous ablation pressures from these values.

Figure 3(a) shows how the maximum observed instantaneous ablation pressure varied with a drive laser spot size and spatial profile. Three drive laser spot diameters were investigated—100 μm, 250 μm, and 500 μm—using 10 ns plateau pulses. Changing the spot size of the drive laser at maximum energy varied the intensity. Across all beam diameters, utilization of a phase plate to modify the spatial profile of the drive beam slightly increased the maximum instantaneous ablation pressure; “top hat” spatial profiles created by the phase plates contained a greater fraction of the drive beam in the specified diameter than the distributed Gaussian profiles created without phase plates.

FIG. 3.

(a) Data showing relationship between drive laser intensity and maximum instantaneous ablation pressure with and without phase plates. (b) Shock spatial profiles under 100 μm, 250 μm, and 500 μm beams with phase plates. (c) Influence of utilizing a phase plate as seen on VISAR traces from 100 μm drive beams.

FIG. 3.

(a) Data showing relationship between drive laser intensity and maximum instantaneous ablation pressure with and without phase plates. (b) Shock spatial profiles under 100 μm, 250 μm, and 500 μm beams with phase plates. (c) Influence of utilizing a phase plate as seen on VISAR traces from 100 μm drive beams.

Close modal

Figure 3(b) depicts how changing the drive laser spot size affected the spatial uniformity of the shock front. All three VISAR traces show shocks driven by 10 ns, plateau optical pulses using phase plates for beams of various diameters. With the spatial field of view set to 265 μm, VISAR traces show that shocks driven by pulses with 100 μm spots have a central planar region corresponding to the diameter of the drive beam. At the edges of the drive area, the shock profile is not planar, indicating later arrival in time of the affected material. Such VISAR traces created by 100 μm drive beams can still be used to extract ablation pressure, but only in the central planar shock region. While VISAR profiles from the 250 μm and 500 μm drive beams remain relatively uniform across the 265 μm spatial window, they likely have similar profiles at the edges of their shocks, which would be observable with larger VISAR spatial fields of view.

Figure 3(c) illustrates how modifying the spatial profile of the drive laser with a phase plate influences the shock spatial uniformity. Both beams had approximately 100 μm diameters and 10 ns plateau pulse durations. The deposited laser energy is comparable between the two, but the profile created without a phase plate is distributed due to the beam’s quasi-Gaussian form. At large spot sizes, the shock uniformity created by drive beams with and without phase plates was qualitatively the same across the specified VISAR spatial field of view.

As a final note, at high intensities (100 μm optical laser spot size) with phase plates, several VISAR traces showed an abrupt drop in reflectivity before the shock front. This effect only occurred on targets with a layer of aluminum flash coating on the front surface of the target, potentially indicating formation of transient aluminum plasma.

This study used two different types of 10 ns pulse shapes as shown in Fig. 1(c). During each experiment, one type of the pulse shape was selected to drive a shockwave through a target. Experiments were performed using a drive beam created with a 250 μm phase plate and repeated to build up statistics.

Figure 4(a) shows the distribution of observed maximum instantaneous ablation pressures for 10 ns plateau and slope pulses under similar drive laser intensities. In general, slope pulses produced maximum instantaneous pressures higher than those generated by plateau pulses.

FIG. 4.

(a) Observed maximum instantaneous ablation pressure for plateau and slope pulses at similar intensities. (b) Temporal profiles of shocks created by 10 ns plateau and slope pulses at similar pulse energies.

FIG. 4.

(a) Observed maximum instantaneous ablation pressure for plateau and slope pulses at similar intensities. (b) Temporal profiles of shocks created by 10 ns plateau and slope pulses at similar pulse energies.

Close modal

Figure 4(b) shows the temporal profile of shocks created by 10 ns plateau and slope pulses under similar drive laser intensities. Both plateau and slope pulses produced shockwaves with temporal profiles showing sustained shock conditions for 80% of the drive pulse duration. Both profiles decay to <50% of their maximum velocity value within 2 ns after the drive laser pulse ends. The primary difference in shock temporal profiles created by the two pulse shapes is when the maximum pressure occurs. Plateau pulses peak early during drive laser irradiation and decay slightly over the pulse duration. In contrast, slope pulses do not reach their maximum pressure value until later during the pulse.

Section III A examines the impact of the drive laser spot size and spatial profile on instantaneous ablation pressure and shock uniformity. In general, varying the optical drive laser diameter created a compromise between maximum instantaneous ablation pressure and shock spatial uniformity. Shocks driven by the MEC optical laser at spot sizes of 250 μm and 500 μm remained uniform across the measured VISAR spatial field of view, a trend which held true for spots created with or without a phase plate. The 250 μm and 500 μm drive laser spots created with phase plates achieved intensities on the order of 1012–1013 W/cm2 and generated instantaneous ablation pressures between 30 and 100 GPa. Shocks driven by a 100 μm optical laser did not maintain the same spatial uniformity; VISAR traces of these “small volume” shocks demonstrated distinct non-planarity with fringes falling off at the edges of the spatial field of view. At intensities >1013 W/cm2, shocks driven by a 100 μm optical laser with a phase plate delivered instantaneous ablation pressures exceeding 160 GPa; above this value, the LiF window melted, reducing transmission of velocimetry data. This places an upper bound on the pressure regime investigable with the specified target design.

The results outlined in Sec. III B show that the temporal shape of the drive laser pulse can be used to tailor the resulting shockwave temporal profile. In this study, shockwaves driven by slope pulses provided higher maximum instantaneous ablation pressures than those driven by plateau pulses, but slope-driven shockwaves reached their peak ablation pressure 6 ns later than plateau-driven shockwaves during laser irradiation.

To contextualize these results, Fig. 5 shows the instantaneous ablation pressures reached in this MEC experiment using 10 ns optical pulses with slope (black diamonds) and plateau (green squares) temporal profiles. The pulse energy for each shot was kept approximately constant, and utilization of 500 μm and 250 μm phase plates changed the corresponding drive intensity. These data are compared to the instantaneous ablation pressures of polyimides and diamonds taken by Smith et al. (violet triangles) and Fratanduono et al. (violet circles) at the Omega Laser Facility in Rochester, NY.13,14 To create drive intensities on the order of 1012–1013 W/cm2, all three groups utilized drive lasers >250 μm in diameter with phase plates inserted into the beam. At intensities between 1 × 1012 W/cm2 and 2 × 1012 W/cm2, the MEC optical laser with plateau pulses produced pressures lower than pressures reported by Smith et al. However, the MEC plateau and slope data match well with data from the work of Fratanduono et al. at intensities between 4 × 1012 W/cm2 and 5 × 1012 W/cm2. Future MEC experiments will utilize slope pulses at lower intensities to ascertain if that decreases the discrepancy between the two facilities.

FIG. 5.

Data collected from the MEC laser and corresponding laser ablation scaling shown in green and black (λ = 527 nm). Data from the Omega Laser Facility and corresponding laser ablation scaling are shown in violet (λ = 351 nm).

FIG. 5.

Data collected from the MEC laser and corresponding laser ablation scaling shown in green and black (λ = 527 nm). Data from the Omega Laser Facility and corresponding laser ablation scaling are shown in violet (λ = 351 nm).

Close modal

Figure 5 also compares these sets of data to scaling relations for laser ablation. The two green lower lines in Fig. 5 depict scaling relations calculating ablation pressure as a function of laser intensity from Lindl, 1995, and Drake, 2006, given by Eqs. (4)20 and (5).21 Both theories account for a variable incident wavelength and were plotted using the MEC laser wavelength value of 527 nm. The violet upper lines are the Lindl, 1995, and Drake, 2006, scaling relations for the Omega 351 nm wavelength,

PCHMBar=40IPWcm2λμm23,
(4)
PCHMBar=37IPWcm2λμm0.667.
(5)

At intensities between 1012 and 1013 W/cm2, the MEC drive laser with plateau pulses underperforms theory by approximately 30%. Comparable MEC data with generated with slope pulses perform better with pressures 5% below theory. At intensities between 1012 and 1013 W/cm2, instantaneous data from the work of Smith et al. deviate from its wavelength-dependent theory by an average of 10%, and instantaneous data from the work of Fratanduono deviate by >10%. Discrepancies between scaling relations and three independent data sets from different facilities and groups emphasize the sensitivity of dynamic laser-driven ramp and shockwave environments to variations in target and laser drive parameters. More detailed scaling laws account for laser pulse duration,22 target composition,23 and plasma effects.24 Differences between practice and theory also motivate continued improvement of diagnostics to better define the achievable high-pressure (P), high-temperature (T) environments.

This study characterized the capabilities of a nanosecond optical laser located at matter in extreme conditions hutch of the Linac Coherent Light Source as a source of dynamic shock compression. Using a 100 μm drive beam with a phase plate, the 30 J laser reached peak ablation pressures exceeding 160 GPa. In this study, drive pulses with slope temporal profiles generated higher ablation pressures than those with plateau profiles, and both slope and plateau profiles delivered temporally sustained shockwaves over 80% of the 10 ns pulse duration. The MEC results for maximum instantaneous ablation pressures driven by slope pulses compare well with their counterparts from other facilities and laser ablating scaling relations.

The authors would like to thank Dr. Raymond Smith and Dr. Dayne Fratanduono for allowing reproduction of their Omega data. Use of the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences under Contract No. DE-AC02-76SF00515. The MEC instrument is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Fusion Energy Sciences under Contract No. SF00515. The primary author gratefully acknowledges support from the LCLS Laser Group.

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