Experiments have been performed at the Central Laser Facility, Rutherford Appleton Lab., UK. using novel techniques in which laser produced plasmas have been diagnosed by measurements of the charged thermonuclear reaction products. Two types of experiment are being reported here. Firstly, thermonuclear alpha particles from an exploding pusher target have been used to determine the growth of the Rayleigh–Taylor instability in a separate laser driven planar foil. The resulting alpha particle range loss distributions provide a direct measurement of the foil thickness distribution and hence the instability. The R–T instability has been observed in a number of foils with range losses varying between almost zero to over lOμm. Secondly, a thermonuclear particle backlighting technique has been used in the measurement of the stopping power of hot plasma for different materials. The ratio of plasma stopping power to that of the cold material is measured and compared to a value obtained from theoretical modelling. The solid state nuclear track detector CR–39 has been used as a diagnostic for these experiments. A sophisticated image analysis system has been developed to enhance and improve data recovery.