Generation of photoionized plasmas in the laboratory of relevance to accretion-powered x-ray sources using keV line radiation

D. Riley*, R.L. Singh, S. White, M. Charlwood, D. Bailie, C. Hyland, T. Audet, G. Sarri, B. Kettle, G. Gribakin, S.J. Rose, E.G. Hill, G.J. Ferland, R.J.R. Williams, F.P. Keenan

*Corresponding author for this work

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We describe laboratory experiments to generate x-ray photoionized plasmas of relevance to accretion-powered x-ray sources such as neutron star binaries and quasars, with significant improvements over previous work. A key quantity is referenced, namely the photoionization parameter, defined as ξ=4πF/ne where F is the x-ray flux and ne the electron density. This is normally meaningful in an astrophysical steady-state context, but is also commonly used in the literature as a figure of merit for laboratory experiments that are, of necessity, time-dependent. We demonstrate emission-weighted values of ξ>50 erg-cm s−1 using laser-plasma x-ray sources, with higher results at the centre of the plasma which are in the regime of interest for several astrophysical scenarios. Comparisons of laboratory experiments with astrophysical codes are always limited, principally by the many orders of magnitude differences in time and spatial scales, but also other plasma parameters. However useful checks on performance can often be made for a limited range of parameters. For example, we show that our use of a keV line source, rather than the quasi-blackbody radiation fields normally employed in such experiments, has allowed the generation of the ratio of inner-shell to outer-shell photoionization expected from a blackbody source with ∼keV spectral temperature. We compare calculations from our in-house plasma modelling code with those from Cloudy and find moderately good agreement for the time evolution of both electron temperature and average ionisation. However, a comparison of code predictions for a K-β argon X-ray spectrum with experimental data reveals that our Cloudy simulation overestimates the intensities of more highly ionised argon species. This is not totally surprising as the Cloudy model was generated for a single set of plasma conditions, while the experimental data are spatially integrated.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101097
Number of pages9
JournalHigh Energy Density Physics
Early online date22 Apr 2024
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2024


  • Laboratory astrophysics
  • Laser-plasmas
  • Photoionization
  • X-ray spectroscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Nuclear and High Energy Physics


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