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Compact, high brightness neutron beamline using intense lasers


School of Mathematics and Physics

, Applications accepted all year round Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

The sustained development of high-power laser technologies is revolutionizing the future of small-scale neutron sources, to allow the scientific community and industry performing experiments that are currently offered at multi-billion pound accelerator-driven facilities. Access to ultra-intense laser pulses has promoted several avenues of research in plasma physics [1]. One of them is the field of neutron generation, which lays a foundation towards the next generation of compact sources for biomedical (for instance, Boron neutron capture therapy of cancer [2]), homeland security and industrial applications. With recent success in producing intense bursts of epithermal (eV energies) [3, 4] and thermal (meV energies) neutrons by driving a compact target-moderator assembly with lasers, the project aims to take the development to a next level - building a neutron beamline at STFC Central Laser Facility (CLF), UK, to drive into interdisciplinary territory, attracting partners not only from the scientific community but also from healthcare and industries looking for a compact and affordable neutron probe.

The United Kingdom has been at the forefront in developing high intensity lasers and laser-based radiation sources, such as electrons, ions and neutrons. In particular, laser-driven neutrons have been one of the key research activities of the supervisory teams from the Queens University of Belfast (QUB) and the Central Laser Facility (CLF) with a significant track record of high impact publications over the years. With a recently funded 80M grant by UKRI, MoD and industries, the CLF is currently building (scheduled operational in 2024) a state- of-art 10 Hz Petawatt laser system, EPAC (Extreme Photonics Applications Centre), which is aimed to provide a step-change in capability for laser-driven accelerator research in the UK.

The Ph.D. student will work towards developing a neutron beamline for the EPAC by capitalizing on the expertise available at both QUB and CLF. The student will have the unique advantage of using these facilities through their internal programs and to design and test in stages the neutron beamline by using the leading experimental and computational resources available at both institutions. The path from a proof-of-principle demonstration to a prototype will be traversed over the term of the Ph.D., which aligns nicely with the timeline of the EPAC project. The student will spend a significant amount of time (3-6 months each year) at the CLF working alongside the design and technical teams of the EPAC project, which will help to mitigate and circumvent any technical issues along the way and so significantly speeding up the research.

Entry requirements:


Candidates must hold a 1st or 2.1 BSc/MSci (or equivalent) in Physics or relevant subject; a 1st MSci (or equivalent) is desirable.

Eligibility:


The PhD position is available to UK and EU nationals who meet residency requirements (https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/department-economy-studentships).

Applications:


Applicants should apply electronically through the Queen's online application portal at: https://dap.qub.ac.uk/portal/


Funding Notes

The 42 months studentship is awarded through the Queen's Collaborative Studentship scheme and is jointly funded by Department for the Economy (DfE) and the Science and Technology Facility Council (STFC). Tuition fees and a stipend of £17K per annum (inclusive of a salary top-up of £2k) will be covered by the studentship. Travel and accommodation costs during the student's time at the Central Laser Facility will also be fully covered.

References

[1] V. Malka et al., Principles and applications of compact laser-plasma accelerator, Nat. Phys. 4, 447453 (2008).
[2] M.F. Hawthorne, New Horizons for therapy based on the boron neutron capture reaction, Molecular Medicine Today, 4, 174, (1998)
[3] S. Mirfayzi, . . . , S. Kar, Experimental demonstration of a compact epithermal neutron source based on a high power laser, Appl. Phys. Lett., 111, 044101 (2017)
[4] CLF Highlight - https://www.clf.stfc.ac.uk/Pages/Laser-driven-moderated-neutrons-.aspx

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