The Atoms, Beams, and Plasmas group has current activities in experimental and theoretical relativistic electron beam physics, electron cyclotron masers, cyclotron autoresonance masers (CARMs), free electron lasers, superradiant sources, novel electron sources, optical sensing of electromagnetic fields, pseudospark physics and plasma applications. Non-neutral relativistic plasma physics is a growth area, with applications in heating fusion plasmas, plasma diagnostics, communications, accelerators, radars, and millimetre-wave heating. Other research interests are in the areas of spectroscopy, reaction kinetics, and collision dynamics of a range of systems of wide current interest. The research areas can be grouped under two headings, the role of atoms, ions and molecules in plasmas, and molecular spectroscopy applied to remote sensing of the earth's atmosphere. The plasma physics comprises high temperature fusion and stellar plasmas, including that of the solar corona, and low temperature discharges. The atmospheric spectroscopy involves exploration of the greenhouse effect, and the development of field instrumentation for remote sensing. A wide range of modern experimental spectroscopic techniques, in particular Fourier-transformation and tuneable-laser spectroscopy, are employed to investigate the fundamental processes. There is a strong theoretical computational group focused principally on electron collisions and spectral emission from plasmas. This work is closely linked to major Earth observation, astrophysical, fusion and heavy ion ring laboratories in Europe with substantial staff mobility.
The Strathclyde Intense Laser Interaction Studies (SILIS) group has experimental and theoretical research programmes in (i) x-ray production through high harmonic generation (which can be synthesised into attosecond pulses) and bremsstrahlung when intense laser pulses interact with matter; (ii) Nonlinear optics including Raman and superradiant amplification, guiding and induced transparency arising when intense laser pulses interact in a preformed plasma; (iii) Advanced accelerators: laser-wakefield acceleration and its application to free-electron lasers; (iv) terahertz generation from magnetised plasmas; (v) femtosecond laser micromachining; (vi) photofragmentation studies of molecules; (vii) ultrashort electron-pulse generation and laser-assisted acceleration; (viii) sub-cycle pulse generation using electron beams, semiconductors and plasmas; (ix) interaction of terahertz pulses with plasma, semiconductors, and simple quantum systems; (x) superradiant amplification in free-electron maser amplifiers; (xi) plasma studies: interaction of ultra-intense pulses with atomic clusters, gas jets, foils and solids; and (xii) collective scattering processes in solid-state plasmas and classical scatterers.
This research programme is supported by a collection of state-of-the-art high power femtosecond lasers, which form part of the TOPS facility. One of the sources is a terawatt laser capable of providing intensities above 10^18 W/cm2 suitable for creating astrophysical like conditions and for studying matter under extreme conditions. The terawatt laser is synchronised to two millijoule level femtosecond lasers, which are used to provide tuneable visible and infrared radiation using optical parametric and difference-frequency mixing techniques for time and frequency-resolved studies. An electron photoinjector accelerator is being developed to provide 100-fs duration relativistic electron bunches for use as an injector of the wakefield accelerator and to power a free-electron maser amplifier. The TOPS sources are excellent research tools for the study of ultrafast phenomena, collective radiation-matter interactions, and ultra-high field physics. The facility is utilised by a growing community of users from a broad range of disciplines.