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Relativistic laser interaction with solids and its probing with advanced light sources

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please contact Thomas Kluge.

The interaction of ultra-intense lasers with solids creates extreme states of matter: dense, hot, non-equilibrium transient plasmas.

Their application to some of the most exciting and important questions - How can we produce enough sustainable energy? How can treat cancer better and make the best treatments available for everybody? How do plasmas form and behave in the extreme conditions of distant space objects? - can give new and surprising answers. We study how to accelerate ions with two of the most powerful lasers ever constructed, how to heat plasmas hot enough to fuse atoms and generate the energy we all need to power our modern live and simulate plasma flows and instabilities in astrophysical jets to learn more about our universe.

We use the most advanced computing codes (PIConGPU), most powerful supercomputers (HYPNOS, TITAN and others) and search for patterns, laws and sometimes find surprisingly simple explanations of the wonderful physics that is seen in laser plasma experiments.

cone intensity

Research highlights

  • T. Kluge, M. Bussmann, U. Schramm, T.E. Cowan, "Simple scaling equations for electron spectra, currents and bulk heating in ultra-intense short-pulse laser-solid interaction", Phys. Plasmas (accepted).
  • P. Hilz, T.M. Ostermayr, a. Huebl, V. Bagnoud, B. Borm, M. Bussmann, M. Gallei, J. Gebhard, D. Haffa, J. Hartmann, T. Kluge, F.H. Lindner, P. Neumayr, C.G. Schaefer, U. Schramm, P.G. Thirolf, T.. F. Rösch, F. Wagner, B. Zielbauer, and J. Schreiber, "Isolated proton bunch acceleration by a petawatt laser pulse, "Nat. Commun. 9, 423 (2018).
  • S. Göde, C. Rödel, K. Zeil, R. Mishra, M. Gauthier, F.-E. Brack, T. Kluge, M. J. MacDonald, J. Metzkes, L. Obst, M. Rehwald, C. Ruyer, H.-P. Schlenvoigt, W. Schumaker, P. Sommer, T. E. Cowan, U. Schramm, S. Glenzer, and F. Fiuza, "Relativistic Electron Streaming Instabilities Modulate Proton Beams Accelerated in Laser-Plasma Interactions", Phys. Rev. Lett 118, 194801 (2017).
  • T. Kluge, J. Metzkes, K. Zeil, M. Bussmann, U. Schramm, and T.E. Cowan, "Two surface plasmon decay of plasma oscillations", Phys. Plasmas 22, 064502 (2015)
  • J. Metzkes, T. Kluge, K. Zeil, M. Bussmann, S.D. Kraft, T.E. Cowan, and U. Schramm, "Experimental observation of transverse modulations in laser-driven proton beams", New J. Phys. 16, 023008 (2014).
  • M. Bussmann, H. Burau, T.E. Cowan, A. Debus, A. Huebl, G. Juckeland, T. Kluge, W.E. Nagel, R. Pausch, F. Schmitt, U. Schramm, J. Schuchart, and R. Widera, "Radiative Signatures of the Relativistic Kelvin-Helmholtz Instability", in Proc. SC13 Int. Conf. High Perform. Comput. Networking, Storage Anal. (ACM, New York, NY, USA, 2013), p. 5:1.
  • T. Kluge, S. A. Gaillard, K. A. Flippo, T. Burris-Mog, W. Enghardt, B. Gall, M. Geissel, a Helm, S.D. Kraft, T. Lockard, J. Metzkes, D.T. Offermann, M. Schollmeier, U. Schramm, K. Zeil, M. Bussmann, and T.E. Cowan, "High proton energies from cone targets: electron acceleration mechanisms",New J. Phys. 14, 23038 (2012).
  • T. Kluge, T. Cowan, A. Debus, U. Schramm, K. Zeil, and M. Bussmann, "Electron Temperature Scaling in Laser Interaction with Solids", Phys. Rev. Lett. 107, 205003 (2011).
  • T. Kluge, W. Enghardt, S.D. Kraft, U. Schramm, K. Zeil, T.E. Cowan, and M. Bussmann, "Enhanced laser ion acceleration from mass-limited foils", Phys. Plasmas 17, 123103 (2010).

Some interesting summary charts of selected experimental results

If you want to put your data into these plots and embed them into your website, please contact me!

Probing of relativistic laser interaction with advanced light sources

Foto: Thomas Kluge

We proposed and developed a novel approach to obtain unprecedented insight in dense and relativistic plasmas. Currently, experiments rely on intensive and complex simulations to interpret results and verify deduced explanations and models. We aim to turn that around and will soon be able to do ultra-short snapshots of the interior of dense laser-heted plasmas using X-ray pulses. In the future, combining the world's most intense optical lasers and most advanced X-ray sources - X-ray free electron lasers - at European XFEL (HIBEF) will give detailed information that for the first time would allow a direct glimpse on the femtosecond, nanoscale plasma physics involved in ultra-short ultra-intense laser-solid interaction. Then, experiments could be used to benchmark our simulations and numerical models and eventually drive their predictive capabilities further.

Research highlights

  • T. Kluge, M. Rödel, J. Metzkes, A. Pelka, A. Laso Garcia, I. Prencipe, M. Rehwald et al., "Observation of ultrafast solid-density plasma dynamics using femtosecond X-ray pulses from a free-electron laser", (submitted).
  • T. Kluge, C. Rödel, M. Rödel, A. Pelka, E.E. McBride, L.B. Fletcher, M. Harmand, A. Krygier, A. Higginbotham, M. Bussmann, E. Galtier, E. Gamboa, A.L. Garcia, M. Garten, S.H. Glenzer, E. Granados, C. Gutt, H.J. Lee, B. Nagler, W. Schumaker, F. Tavella, M. Zacharias, U. Schramm, and T.E. Cowan, "Nanometer-scale characterization of laser-driven compression, shocks, and phase transitions, by x-ray scattering using free electron lasers", Phys. Plasmas 24, 102709 (2017).
  • T. Kluge, M. Bussmann, H.-K. Chung, C. Gutt, L. G. Huang, M. Zacharias, U. Schramm, and T. E. Cowan, "Nanoscale femtosecond imaging of transient hot solid density plasmas with elemental and charge state sensitivity using resonant coherent diffraction", Phys. Plasmas 23, 033103 (2016).
  • T. Kluge, C. Gutt, L.G. Huang, J. Metzkes, U. Schramm, M. Bussmann, and T.E. Cowan, "Using X-ray free-electron lasers for probing of complex interaction dynamics of ultra-intense lasers with solid matter", Phys. Plasmas 21, 033110 (2014).


    When a UHI laser hits a solid foil it quickly ionizes the front surface. The electrons move in the combined laser and plasma electromagnetic fields. Due to the strong fields the electrons rapidly become highly relativistic. This can give rise to rich physics, such as instabilities (e.g. Rayleigh-Taylor (RT) like, Parametric, Weibel, Buneman, Resistive and Ionization instabilities), shock formation, buried layer heating by internal ambipolar expansion. These effects are important for example for an understanding of almost all fundamental questions in laser-solid plasma physics, such as laser absorption, electron and ion acceleration (RPA, TNSA, BOA), filamentation of electron and ion beams at the foil surface, inside the foil or behind the foil, and the generation of high harmonics. However, there does not yet exist any direct experimental observation of any of the mentioned processes (though e.g. indirect observations of hole boring via Doppler shift of reflected light exist). The reason is that the timescale of the physics is ultra-short, on the order of the pulse duration (few 10 femtoseconds), UHI laser period (typically few femtoseconds) or the plasma period (below 0.1 femtoseconds) and the relevant spatial scales are generally in the range of a few microns and below. Moreover, solid foils are not penetrable by IR, visible, or UV light.

    Developing a predictive understanding of these, together with their interactions, and also far from equilibrium is a grand challenge of modern-day plasma physics, which will require significant advances in theory and numerical simulation of non-equilibrium and non-linear processes. At the same time it is of the utmost importance to obtain much better experimental data with high spatial and temporal resolutions. Probing the solid-density plasma with XFELs will open entirely new ways to directly observe these extreme conditions, and will provide fundamentally new data for developing improved models, as well as validate or falsify present theoretical treatments. This is the prerequisite to drive advanced applications such as fast ignition of nuclear fusion or ion acceleration to > 100 AMeV energies to cure deep seated tumors. Key observables include the local electron density, current density, quasi-static magnetic fields, and ionization state, as well as the growth rate of the various perturbations and instabilities.


    Dr. Thomas Kluge

    Laser Particle Acceleration
    Phone: +49 351 260 2618