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Dynamically-tuneable optical metasurfaces for laser implosion fusion applications

Project Description

Joint supervisors: Prof. C. David Wright and Dr Jacopo Bertolotti

External partner: AWE PLC (Dr A. J. Comley)

Inertial confinement fusion (ICF), a scheme in which powerful lasers are used to compress and ignite a cryogenic pellet of deuterium-tritium fuel, is one route towards a clean energy source of the future [1]. Conventional approaches to laser fusion demand extremely large and high-energy laser systems to initiate fusion, and this is proving to be a key limitation for the viability of ICF as a future energy source. In this project we aim to overcome such limitations by using novel metamaterials and metasurfaces to achieve multi-state beam zooming and deflection in ICF systems, massively increasing the coupling efficiency of the laser energy to the fuel pellet [2].

We will also explore the use of dynamic laser beam control with metasurfaces for other technologically important applications, such as laser-machining and LIDAR, working from the IR through to the UV wavelength range.

Working with AWE scientists to define zooming specifications, a range of meta-device options will be explored. Building on previous work [3, 4], the operating principle of the meta-devices could be based on (but not limited to):
1. Mie resonances in all-dielectric structures, including dual-resonant structures incorporating nonlinear element(s);
2. Structures incorporating phase-change materials;
3. Charge carrier injection techniques.

The performance of the proposed structures will be analysed using detailed electromagnetic and thermal simulations and promising prototype systems will be fabricated and experimentally characterised in the laboratory.

[1] V.N. Goncharov et al., Plasma Phys. Control. Fusion 59, 014008 (2017).
[2] I.V. Igumenshchev et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 110, 145001 (2013).
[3] C. R. de Galarreta et al., Adv. Funct. Mater. 2018, 1704993.
[4] A. J. Comley, EPJ Appl. Metamat. 2018, 5, 8

Funding Notes

The 4 year studentship is funded 50:50 by an industrial sponsor and the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences at the University of Exeter. It is of value around £105,000, which includes £13,000 towards the research project (travel, consumables, equipment etc.), tuition fees, and an annual, tax-free stipend of approximately £16,500 per year for UK/EU students.

Eligible candidates: UK/EU nationals only due to industry sponsor requirements.

How good is research at University of Exeter in Physics?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 40.20

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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