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Ultra-intense laser-plasma interactions: Ion acceleration and relativistic optics and photonics

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  • Full or part time
    Dr P McKenna
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

A fully-funded PhD studentship is available in high power laser-plasma physics, working within a vibrant team of experimentalists and theoreticians, to investigate relativistic plasma physics and laser-driven ion acceleration.

Due to their compact nature and unique properties, intense laser-driven particle and radiation sources have transformative potential for application in many areas of science and society. Central to the development of this enabling technology is the exploitation of nonlinear optical phenomena that are produced when plasma electrons interacting with the laser gain relativistic velocities. These physical processes will dominate light-matter interactions at next-generation laser facilities, e.g. the extreme light infrastructure (ELI).

The proposed project involves a programme of experiments and coupled simulations to investigate relativistic laser-plasma interaction phenomena, and their use in controlling charged particle and radiation generation, in ultrathin foil targets irradiated by ultraintense laser pulses. It will also involve the development and application of advanced designs for plasma optics, including ellipsoidal reflective surfaces to tightly focus relativistically intense laser light. The project exploits recent breakthroughs by our team, including relativistic transparency in ultrathin foils (Nature Physics 12, 505 (2016)) and its use in manipulating plasma particle motion (Nature Communications, 7, 12891 (2016)) and acceleration physics (Nature Communications, 9, 724 (2018)). It will explore the physics underpinning the development of relativistic plasma photonics, to enable tuneable spatial, temporal and polarisation control of laser pulses at ultrahigh intensity.

The project will include experimental investigations using the new 350TW laser at the Scottish Centre for the Applications of Plasma Accelerators (SCAPA) at the University of Strathclyde, as well as external lasers at the Central Laser Facility in Oxfordshire. It also involves simulations of intense laser-plasma interactions using high performance computers.

For further information on the PhD project contact Prof. Paul McKenna ([Email Address Removed]). For information about PhD study in the Physics Department at the University of Strathclyde, please visit: For an online application form please go to

Funding Notes

The project is suitable for candidates from within the EU who have, or expect to obtain, at least a 2:1-class degree (or equivalent) in physics.


Recent example group publications related to the project:
A. Higginson et al, Nature Communications, 9, 724 (2018)
B. Gonzalez-Izquierdo et al, Nature Physics, 12, 505 (2016)
B. Gonzalez-Izquierdo et al, Nature Communications, 7, 12891 (2016)

How good is research at University of Strathclyde in Physics?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 27.00

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

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