HMC Physics Colloquium

Tuesdays at 16:30 in Shanahan Center for Teaching and Learning, Room B460

Tom Donnelly

Harvey Mudd College

Using High-Power, Pulsed Lasers to Generate Hot, Dense Environments: A Fusion Testbed

Dec. 4, 2012

When they where first invented in 1960, someone quipped that “Lasers are a solution waiting for a problem.” That challenge has been met so effectively that today lasers are ubiquitous in everyday life, to say nothing of their presence in laboratories. A series of scientific, engineering, and material-science breakthroughs have allowed lasers to become ever more powerful, and today laser pulses are produced which reach a peak power in excess of 1 PW (\(10^{15}\) W). For comparison, this is many hundred times the power carried on the entire US electrical grid. I will discuss some of the basic ideas used to build these high-power lasers, and then will describe work that I have done at HMC, the University of Texas at Austin, and Imperial College, London studying the interaction of high-power laser pulses with micron-scale targets. In particular, I will describe how we have tailored the laser-matter interactions to produce hot, dense systems that can act as a fusion plasma.