When high energy radiation interacts with matter it leads to excitations which evolve on extremely short timescales. This evolution leads to ionisation of the parent material and/or the formation of emergent chemical species. For X-rays and electrons large scattering angles tend to homogenise the distribution of the dose deposited during these interactions. In the case of protons and ions, however, their interaction with matter tends to result in the formation of dense nano-tracks of excitation. This leads to initially highly structured dose distribution on the nanoscale. The unique ultrafast nature of laser produced proton bunches allows these dynamics to be investigated at their natural temporal scales for the first time.
Dimensionality and structure on a nano-scale are expected to play a major role in the evolution of these processes – and they are directly accessible for the first time using pump/probe techniques with the laser driven proton bunches which are fully synchronized to optical and X-ray probe beams. CPP has a well demonstrated skill set in developing and delivering laser based radiation sources and applying them collaboratively to scope the potential for cancer treatment based on laser driven protons and ions – the topic of our current ASAIL Programme Grant, which includes collaborative research with the biologists of QUB’s Centre for Cancer Research and Radiation Biology. NanoRad links to this and aims to deliver impact in the domain of healthcare by providing links between Life Sciences and Physics Research in CPP and provide a pathway to accelerated impact.
Some specific questions we aim to answer within the NanoRad framework include:
- Can we devise approaches to extend our control of relativistic plasma dynamics to produce brighter laser driven X-ray and particle sources?
- How does an ion nano-track evolve on a picosecond timescale?
- What role does the dimensionality and nano-scale structure play in radiation induced dynamics and how does this affect manufacture and dynamics of nano-scale structures?
- What is the temporal evolution of physical processes underpinning cancer treatment by hadron therapy and/or high doses of radiation?
- Can we use ultrafast electro-magnetic pulses to study the fundamental switching speed of ferroelectric devices which underlie our mass data storage in the digital age?
Nanorad - Ultrafast, nano-scale material response to radiation and applications of ultrafast radiation sources, EPSRC Platform Grant EP/P010059/1 (2016-21)