Hydrodynamic instabilities of radiative blast waves
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We present the results from a series of experimental investigations into the hydrodynamic instabilities that occur in radiative blast waves. In particular, we examine the Vishniac instability in which the perturbation modes oscillate in time and, for certain mode numbers and polytropic index of the medium, can exhibit a growth in their amplitudes. Experiments were conducted on the GHOST laser laboratory in which a source of atomic clusters was irradiated by a 1J-2J, 115fs laser pulse to produce cylindrical blast waves. The thrust of this thesis falls into two categories. First, we analyze the effects radiative cooling has on the evolution of blast waves such as the lowering of the effective polytropic index and consequently the lowering of their deceleration parameter. Radiation from the blast wave surface results in a preheated ionization precursor in the upstream material and is indicated by a gradual decline in the electron density profile of the blast wave rather than a sharp jump. This mechanism, if strong enough, can also create a secondary shock wave to form ahead of the main blast wave. The second set of experiments investigates the temporal evolution of longitudinal perturbations induced on the blast waves by use of a transverse interferometric beam that modifies the cluster medium prior to the onset of the main pump beam. These perturbations are analyzed and compared to theory set forth in Vishniac's mechanism for oscillatory instabilities and their growth rate.