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High energy density (HED) science is the study of systems of matter and radiation at high temperatures (typically millions of degrees) and pressures (over a million atmospheres). Most of the systems of interest are dense plasmas requiring theoretical treatment beyond traditional plasma physics, and they are often extremely relativistic. Topics of study include laser wakefield electron acceleration, ion and proton acceleration from laser-matter interaction, high neutron flux production, efficient electron-positron pair production, nuclear fusion from gas clusters, extreme ultraviolet light production and spectroscopy, equations-of-state of materials at conditions found in planetary cores and stars, laboratory astrophysics, and extreme field physics, specifically the study of quantum processes in strong classical fields as found in black holes, hadron collisions or ultra-intense laser fields. Our research includes experimental studies at several ultrahigh intensity laser systems, numerical studies including massively parallel simulations using supercomputers like UT’s 10PFlop Stampede system, and theoretical studies of strongly coupled and/or relativistic plasmas and the development of quantum field theories.

The Center for High Energy Density Science (CHEDS) (https://web2.ph.utexas.edu/~utlasers/) is made up of over 40 people including four faculty, several staff scientists, post-docs, and several graduate students. CHEDS works closely with the plasma physics group, especially the Institute for Fusion Studies. CHEDS has three extremely-high-peak-power laser systems that drive matter to high energy densities, including the highest peak power system in the Americas—the Texas Petawatt Laser (http://texaspetawatt.ph.utexas.edu/). A major development of a multi-beam capability is underway.  The TXPW laser will be combined with a long pulse (~ns) 1000 J laser.  Alternatively, a high-contrast TiSapphire laser (rebuilt from Trident at Los Alamos) will be available.  The long pulse laser will be used to pump an amplifier to produce an intensity of 5 pW. CHEDS resources are principally utilized for experimental and theoretical research by four groups in the Department with many external collaborators. Researchers in CHEDS frequently conduct experiments at external laser and pulsed-power facilities including Sandia, Los Alamos, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories.



Current Core Physics Faculty

  • Todd Ditmire, Ph.D., University of California, Davis, 1995.

    Professor of Physics | Director, Texas Center for High Energy-Density Science (CHEDS).

    Advanced Accelerator Concepts; Laser/Plasma Particle Acceleration and Interactions; Strong Field Quantum Field Physics; Advanced X-ray and Gamma-ray Radiation Sources; Experimental & Computational Relativistic Plasma and Particle Physics; Nuclear Physics; Ultrahigh Intensity Laser-Matter Interaction.

  • Michael W. Downer, Ph.D., Harvard University, 1983.

    Professorship in Physics #2 | Distinguished Teaching Professor.

    Atomic and molecular physics; atomic physics; femtosecond spectroscopy; condensed matter surfaces; high-field atomic and plasma physics.

  • Björn Manuel Hegelich, Ph.D., Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, 2002.

    Associate Professor of Physics.

    Laser-plasma simulations and strong field quantum field theory. Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics, Plasma and Fusion; interaction of ultra-intense electromagnetic fields with matter; high energy-density physics; laser particle acceleration.

  • John W. Keto, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin–Madison, 1972.

    Professor of Physics | Graduate Advisor.

    Reactions and radiative processes of excited atoms and molecules; laser spectroscopy, nanoparticles.


Other Physics Professors with Research Interests in this Area

  • Boris Breizman, Ph.D., Budker Institute of Nuclear Physics (BINP), 1971.

    Research Professor.

    Theoretical plasma physics.


Professors in Other Departments

Emeritus and Retired Physics Faculty