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Core holes, charge disorder, and transition from metallic to plasma properties in ultrashort pulse irradiation of metals



We study the details of a gradual change in electron properties from those of a nearly-free-electron (NFE) metal to those of a strongly-coupled plasma, in ultrashort pulse energy deposition in solid metal targets. Time scales shorter than those of a target surface layer expansion are considered. Both the case of an optical laser (visible or near infrared wavelengths range) and of a free electron laser (vacuum ultraviolet or X-ray) are treated. The mechanisms responsible for the change in electron behavior are isochoric melting, lattice charge disordering, and electron mean free path reduction. We find that the transition from metal to plasma usually occurs via an intermediate stage of a charge-disordered solid (solid plasma), in which ions are at their lattice sites but the ionization stages of individual ions differ due to ionization from localized bound states. Charge disordered state formation is very rapid (typically, few femtoseconds or few tens of femtoseconds). Pathway to charge-disordered state differs in simple metals and in noble metals. Probabilities are derived for electron impact ionization and 3-body recombination of a bound ionic state in solid-density medium, applicable both in metal and in plasma regime. An evolution of energy coupling between electron and ion subsystems, from metallic electron-phonon (e-ph) to plasma electron-ion (e-i) coupling, is considered. Substantial increase in coupling parameter is expected as a result of charge disorder.


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Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Dimitri V. Fisher, Plasma Physics Department, Soreq NRC, Yavne 81800, Israel. E-mail:


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Core holes, charge disorder, and transition from metallic to plasma properties in ultrashort pulse irradiation of metals



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