November 2007

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Welcome to the November 2007 issue of the Departmental Research Newsletter. This includes news of the award of the James Scott Prize Lectureship to Steve Barnett. Congratulations Steve! Also profiled are recent successes and developments in laser-driven plasma and nuclear physics at Strathclyde and by Strathclyders collaborating abroad. Finally details of a III-nitride meeting heading to Strathclyde in January and a forth-coming talk by the new Chief Scientific Officer are included.

James Scott Prize Lectureship awarded to Steve Barnett

Prof. Steve Barnett

Steve Barnett has been awarded the James Scott Prize Lectureship from the Royal Society of Edinburgh.  He is pictured here receiving the award from Sir Michael Atiyah, president of the RSE, at this year's award ceremony. The prize is awarded every four years for a lecture in natural philosophy.  Previous winners of the Prize Lectureship include Bohr, Sommerfeld and Dirac, while the most recent recipients are Peter Higgs, Roger Penrose and Michael Berry. Steve's lecture "Security, Insecurity, Paranoia and Quantum Mechanics" will take place in Edinburgh on February 4th next year.

(Photo by Gary Doak, courtesy of the RSE.)

X-ray harmonic radiation from oscillating plasma

Dr Paul McKenna

David Carroll and Paul McKenna are amongst a team of UK physicists who have recently demonstrated the first evidence of x-ray harmonic radiation extending to 3.3 Å, 3.8 keV from petawatt class laser-solid interactions.

Coherent high order harmonic x-ray generation has the potential to open up the world of physical processes on an attosecond timescale. One of the most promising schemes to convert high-power optical laser pulses into broad, phase-locked harmonic spectra extending to multi-keV photon energies is by reflection off relativistically oscillating plasmas. Intense laser pulse interacting with a plasma vacuum interface causes the plasma surface to perform relativistic oscillations. The reflected laser radiation then contains very high order harmonics of the fundamental laser frequency and is bunched in radiation bursts of a few attoseconds duration. The experimental results, published in Physical Review Letters 99, 085001 (2007), demonstrate x-ray harmonic radiation extending to greater than the 3200th order (3.3 Å, 3.8 keV). The coherent nature of the generated harmonics is demonstrated by the highly directional beamed emission, which for photon energies greater than 1 keV is found to be into a cone angle ~4 °.

The FZD Rossendorf - SUPA Beam Line

Prof. Ken Ledingham

In late March of this year, SUPA supported a workshop entitled "Laser Driven Proton Oncology - A Unique New Cancer Therapy" at the University of Strathclyde which was attended by several of the world's leading laser and accelerator physicists as well as by clinicians and radiation physicists. Our initial idea was to set up such a facility in Scotland . The workshop was attended by an international panel who were asked for advice on how we should proceed. The decision of the panel was that we must set up a centre in a place which had lasers, accelerators, physicists , clinicians, biologists and radiologists whose prime object ive was to do this line of research.

The decision we came to was that an ideal site was the Rossendorf Centre in Dresden, whose director Professor Roland Sauerbrey was already a visiting professor at the University of Strathclyde. This centre was already collaborating with OncoRay-Center for Radiation Research in Oncology, Medical Faculty Carl - Gustav - Carus, TU Dresden.

Ken Ledingham had been elected as an FZD fellow at the Rossendorf Centre and Dr Galster and Professor Ledingham decided to invest existing funding to set up a laser/ electron beam line at the Rossendorf Centre. This will allow us to work at a centre one of whose prime functions is to develop proton oncology. In addition, working with the local nuclear team, we can develop the technique of laser backscattering from accelerator produced electron beams to produce monochromatic x-ray beams. This will of course be one of the prime functions of the future 4GLS light source at Daresbury using an energy recovery linac.

How will this fit in with the SCAPA development at Strathclyde which we hope will be funded in SUPA II? The answer to this is 'very well'. The nuclear teams which are part of the SCAPA proposal will be working at Strathclyde developing detectors to be used abroad at international accelerators like Mainz and Jefferson. The Strathclyde/Paisley nuclear laser team will also set up and test experimental arrangements to be operated at the Rossendorf Centre and elsewhere in the UK .

Our SUPA team is also part of an exciting new initiative to set up the first cyclotron/ laser centre for research in proton and heavy ion oncology in the world in Dresden . This proposal is focussed around a multimillion pound development of a new cancer facility which in the longer term could help to provide treatment to patients throughout Europe and is of particular interest to the future of cancer treatment in the UK , where charged particle cancer therapy of deep-seated tumours is not yet available.

Nitride semiconductor meeting comes back to Strathclyde

Prof. Rob Martin

Hot on the heels of the award of the 2014 Commonwealth Games to Glasgow we can announce a slightly smaller event also lined up for our city. In January 2008 the UK Nitrides Consortium annual meeting will return to Strathclyde. The meeting is being organised by Carol Trager-Cowan and Rob Martin and we are delighted to have three excellent international speakers, all very well known in III-nitride research : Prof. Hiroshi Amano (Meijo University, Japan), Prof. Nicola Grandjean (EPFL, Lausanne, Switzerland) and Prof. Steve Hersee (University of New Mexico, USA). Approximately 80 UK researchers from the consortium are expected at the meeting which will be on January 9 and 10. If you are interested in attending please contact Carol ( or Rob (

New Laser-fusion project gets the green light from the EU

Dr Paul McKenna

Members of the department's laser-plasma group are amongst a consortium of scientists from 15 countries, led by the STFC-Central Laser Facility at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, involved in a new European project called HiPER - High Power laser Energy Research facility. The principal aim of the project is to demonstrate the feasibility of laser driven fusion as a future energy source. The facility is also being designed to investigate a broad range of new science in extreme conditions.

Artist's impression of the HiPER facility building

It is expected that net energy gain from inertial fusion of deuterion and tritium using a laser will be demonstrated in the period 2010 to 2012 on the National Ignition Facility, USA . HiPER, a purely civilian facility, is designed to move forwards from this landmark demonstration, using an approach called "fast ignition". Conventional inertial confinement fusion uses shock waves launched by lasers/radiation to compress a deuterium-tritium fuel capsule and heat it to fusion temperatures. The fast ignition approach separates the compression and heating phases by using an additional short pulse laser to produce energetic particles which deposit their energy and raise the fuel to fusion temperatures at a critical point in the compression phase.

Following positive reviews from the EC in July 2007, the preparatory phase project is planned to commence in early 2008. This will prepare the case for a detailed design and construction phase to start in 2011. The facility is anticipated to open towards the end of the next decade, dependent on the success of this preparatory phase. Negotiations have begun to establish where the facility will be located (the UK is the leading contender), how the £500-million project will be funded and what technical options to pursue.

Members of the department are involved in a number of aspects of the project, including laser-particle acceleration, nuclear physics under extreme conditions and the development of particle and radiation diagnostics.

For more information visit the HiPER website or contact Paul McKenna (ext 5712).

Chief Scientific Adviser to visit Glasgow and talk on bioluminescence

Dr Carol Trager-Cowan

Anne Glover, the newly appointed Chief Scientific Advisor for Scotland will be talking to participants at the next Cafe Sci about her original research in bioluminescence. All are welcome on Monday December 3rd, 7pm at the The Victorian Bar, Tron Theatre. For more detail please contact Carol Trager-Cowan.

Nature's bright lights: bioluminesence ---- Anne Glover, Aberdeen University

Bioluminescence is widespread in nature but why and how the phenomenon evolved is a mystery. It is found in organisms as diverse as marine microbes and fireflies and from the Tropics to the seas of the coast of Scotland (as long as we know how to look!). Why should we be interested in bugs that glow in the dark? Scientists have identified the genes involved in coding for bioluminescence and have exploited the phenomenon to find out what is going on inside living cells and how they interact with their environment. This has proven incredibly useful in areas such as cancer research and contaminated land remediation, where glowing bugs have been used to sleuth out contaminated land and also provide solutions for its clean up.

Come along and find out more about one of Nature's truly beautiful phenomena, including how the study of this simple system has allowed us to understand much of how microbes communicate so that they can co-ordinate powerful attacks on our bodies.