Experimental studies of high energy density silicon using ultra-fast lasers
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Understanding material behavior under extreme conditions is an important area of research in physics and material science. One method to study the behavior of materials under these conditions is to drive a strong shock wave through a material and watch its response. In many cases the material response is complicated by phase transitions such as lattice restructuring (Barker 1975; Mabire and Hereil 2000; Swift, Tierney et al. 2005) and melting (Asay 1975; Elias, Chapron et al. 1988; Werdiger, Eliezer et al. 1999; Mabire and Hereil 2000; Swift, Tierney et al. 2005). To study these dynamics we are using lasers in high time resolution pump-probe experiments to develop a real time diagnostic on the phase of a shocked material. This technique enables probing of the entire phase history of a material as it shock compresses and releases. In addition to linear reflectivity and ultra-fast 2D displacement interferometry, we developed a melting diagnostics based on the non-linear optical technique of third harmonic generation (THG) using a circularly polarized laser pulse. This diagnostic resolves the less than 300 fs melting transition of laser excited Si and GaAs, and it also detects a response in shock compressed silicon. Our results show that Si remains crystalline during compression of an elastic 100 kbar shock wave. Results from Si shocked to higher pressures (> 300 kbar) indicate a decrease in THG, suggesting some level of disordering or unexplained phase change.