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Generation of astrophysical magnetic fields in the laboratory

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  • Full or part time
    Dr G Sarri
    Prof M Borghesi
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Several key phenomena in astrophysics are related to the generation of strong magnetic field and the subsequent interactions of particles or beams with them. Dramatic examples are the emission of strong gamma-ray bursts from the propagation of astrophysical jets emitted by ultra- massive astrophysical objects such as pulsars and black-holes [1-3]. These energetic outflows are unique natural laboratories, which are used to probe the distant high-energy Universe, and test the fundamental laws of physics at its limits [4].

On a scale closer to Earth, the bow-shock region, resulting from the collision of solar wind with the Earth’s magnetic field, is a unique laboratory to study complex plasma physics (especially generation of shock waves and magnetic reconnection) and understand fundamental phenomena occurring in the outermost regions of our atmosphere. By using state-of-the-art laser facilities, the successful candidate will carry out pioneering experiments voted at reproducing these phenomena in small-scale laboratory experiments and at studying, in a controlled and reproducible manner, phenomena that would be inaccessible to astrophysical observations.

The proposed work will be based on expertise built by our group in these areas (see, as an example, Refs. [4-8]) and will allow the student to gain expertise in exciting developing areas of research, including high-intensity laser physics, particle acceleration, and laser-plasma interactions in extreme conditions. The work will be carried out under the supervision of Dr. G. Sarri and Prof. M. Borghesi. Candidates should hold at least a 2.1 BSc (or equivalent) in Physics or relevant subject.

The student will gain skills at the frontier of ultra-intense laser science, advanced plasma physics, detector and vacuum technology. In addition, the successful candidate will be encouraged to organise sizeable research teams and present his/her work at international conferences and in high-profile scientific publications.

Funding Notes

This studentship covers fees and a maintenance stipend at current EPSRC rate.

Eligibility: UK and EU nationals who meet residency requirements (


[1] R. D. Blandford and R. L. Znajek, Mon. Not. R. Astr. Soc. 179, 433 (1977).
[2] P. Goldreich and W. H. Julian, Astrophys. J. 157, 869 (1969)
[3] M. C. Begelman, D. Blandford and J. Rees, Rev. Mod. Phys. 56, 255 (1984); J. F. C. Wardle et al., Nature 395, 457 (1998)
[4] A. A. Abdo et al., Science 323, 1688, (2009); A. G. Lyne et al., Science 303, 1153, (2004); M. Tavani et al., Science 331, 1153 (2011)
[5] G. Sarri et al. Nat. Comm. 6, 6747 (2015).
[6] G. Sarri et al. Phys. Rev. Lett. 110, 255002 (2013).
[7] H. Ahmed et al. Phys. Rev. Lett. 110, 205001 (2013).
[8] G. Sarri et al. Phys. Rev. Lett. 109, 205002 (2012).Further Details: Dr Gianluca Sarri, [email protected]

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