We have studied a solid-to-plasma transition by irradiating Al foils with the FLASH free electron laser at intensities up to 10(16) W/cm(2). Intense XUV self-emission shows spectral features that are consistent with emission from regions of high density, which go beyond single inner-shell photoionization of solids. Characteristic features of intrashell transitions allowed us to identify Auger heating of the electrons in the conduction band occurring immediately after the absorption of the XUV laser energy as the dominant mechanism. A simple model of a multicharge state inverse Auger effect is proposed to explain the target emission when the conduction band at solid density becomes more atomiclike as energy is transferred from the electrons to the ions. This allows one to determine, independent of plasma simulations, the electron temperature and density just after the decay of crystalline order and to characterize the early time evolution.
- Physics and Astronomy(all)