Laser ablation studies
At laser intensities above about 1 GW/cm2, absorptive materials will evaporate. Since the pulse length is short compared with the sound speed, high gas pressures result, leading to rapid jet-like expansion into the surrounding medium. Above this "ablation threshold", the electric field of the laser causes a cascade of electron impact ionization, such that most ablation plumes contain some amount of ionization.
Our research on laser ablation plumes includes studies of the internal structure and expansion dynamics of plumes, studies of breakdown "sparks" in gases, and studies of the nucleation and growth of clusters in partially-ionized ablation plumes. This work is relevant to inertial fusion chamber physics as well as applications as diverse as pulsed laser deposition (PLD) and laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS).