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Warm Dense Matter

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  • Full or part time
    Prof D Riley
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Dense, strongly coupled plasmas occur in a variety of important situations. These include, in particular, the interior of stars and of large planets such as Jupiter and the 100s of recently discovered giant planets, orbiting nearby stars. This type of matter has become known as "warm dense matter" or WDM. This is because the theoretical description eludes both classical plasma physics and condensed matter physics. This, in turn, is because neither Coulombic interaction between charged particles nor thermal motion dominates and also the temperature is of the order of the Fermi level. The study of such strongly interacting quantum systems remains one of the grand challenges of contemporary physics.

The microscopic structure of WDM determines bulk properties such as compressibility, thermal and electrical conduction and opacity to radiation. By understanding the structure we can access many bulk properties needed to construct the full equation of state for warm dense matter, which in turn allows us to build coherent models of planetary structure that agree with externally measured parameters such as gravitational field, thermal emission and magnetic fields, measured by probes such as voyager. This structure can be investigated by, for example, X-ray scattering, which is a technique pioneered at QUB for plasmas and since spread to major laboratories worldwide. We are also introducing XUV probing and X-ray absorption spectroscopy as a means of elucidating the microscopic electronic structure of warm dense matter.

In our work, often in collaboration with national and international colleagues, we have created WDM samples using laser driven shocks, radiative heating and free electron lasers, using laboratories such as the Central Laser Facility (UK), ILE Osaka (Japan), LULI(France), the FLASH FEL (Germany) and LCLS X-ray laser and Titan high power laser. (USA). Our recent large funding award (>£600K) will allow us to carry on collaborating and travelling to major facilities around the world, using a variety of techniques including X-ray scatter and emission spectroscopy to study warm dense matter.

Skills :
The experimental program will involve the student gaining a knowledge of plasma diagnostics, X-ray spectroscopy and CCD detectors as well as vacuum and laser technology. In addition, dense plasma physics is an important area related to astrophysics and some theoretical knowledge will naturally be acquired.

Entry Requirements: 2:1 (or equivalent) in a cognate physical sciences or engineering discipline.

Funding Notes

This studentship covers fees and a maintenance stipend at current EPSRC rate.
Eligibility: UK and EU nationals who meet residency requirements (https://www.epsrc.ac.uk/skills/students/help/eligibility/)


1. E. Galtier et al Physical Review Letters 106 164801, 2011
2. A. Pelka et al Physical Review Letters 105 (26) 265701, 2010
3. B Barbrel et al Phys. Rev. Lett. 102 165004, 2009
4. D Riley et al Phys. Rev. E 66(4) 046408, (2002)
5. D Riley et al Phys. Rev. Lett. 84(8) 1704-1707 (2000)
6. E. García Saiz, et al Nature Physics 4 940-944, 2008
7. E. Garcia Saiz et al Physical Review Letters 101 (7) 075003, 2008

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