Use of X-pinches to diagnose behaviour of low density CH foams on axis of wire array Z-pinches

S.C.Bott a), J.B.A.Palmer1, D.J.Ampleford, S.N.Bland, J.P.Chittenden and S.V.Lebedev Blackett Laboratory, Imperial College, London, SW7 2BZ, UK

AWE Plc., Aldermaston, RG7 4PR, UK

X-pinch radiography was used to analyse the interaction between streams of coronal plasma and on-axis foam targets in wire array z-pinch experiments on the MAGPIE generator (1 MA, 240 ns). The implosion of the x-pinch, used in place of a current return conductor to the load, provided a short (< 2ns) small (~ 5µm) intense burst of soft x-rays, ideal for point projection backlighting. Timimg of the x-pinch was adjusted via the mass of its wires, allowing us to study the evolution of the foam during the experiment. Choice of the x-pinch materials, filters and recording film determined the probing radiation, and hence the plasma/foam densities were resolved. Quantitative results will be discussed.


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I. Introduction

The advent of high current, fast rise-time pulsed power systems has recently allowed z-pinch plasma experiments to advance significantly, particularly in the area of Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF). The potential for wire array z-pinches, in particular, to contribute to this area of research has been demonstrated with the report of high power x-ray pulses from such systems [1]. One approach to ICF is based on the Dynamic Hohlraum (DH) concept. In this approach, a target ‘converter’, typically a low density foam containing a fusion target capsule, is placed on the axis of a cylindrical wire array system. The imploding plasma from the wire array impacts on the outer surface of the converter generating xrays. Emission from the converging shock propagates through the foam and drives the capsule. This method has proved highly successful, and on the Z-machine at Sandia National Laboratories D-D neutron yields of 2x1010 neutrons/shot have been reported [2]. The precursor flow of low density plasma, arriving at the foam prior to the main implosion, may modify the foam target in DH experiments. In this work we present the use of x-ray backlighting diagnostics to study the effect of precursor plasma flow on CH2 foams.

II. Experimental Set-up

The current work was carried out on the MAGPIE generator [3] using 16 x 13µm cylindrical tungsten wire arrays on 16mm diameter. This configuration is ‘overmassed’ for the current driver and is non-imploding, but provides a stream of ablated


material onto a CH2 foam target located on the array axis (Figure 1a). The anode plate is normally mounted on 4 return posts, but here one of these is replaced by an x-pinch [4]. This comprises two or more wires crossed in the shape of an ‘x’ such that the wires are in physical contact at the point of crossing. The formed ‘x’ is approximately 6mm in diameter and 7mm between electrodes. The line of sight to the primary film pack is directly through the centre of the array, encompassing the on-axis foam, with a magnification of ~5. Positions for off-axis target foams and a secondary film pack are also indicated in Figure 1. The detector is Kodak M100 film behind a 12.5µm titanium foil, which transmits radiation in the range 2-5 keV and above 8 keV. Timing of the radiation of the x-pinch, and hence image time, is recorded by a diamond Photo-Conducting Diode (PCD) filtered with 12.5µm titanium foil, and current is recorded by a dedicated rogowski coil. A typical current trace and x-ray signal from the x-pinch, recorded at a vacuum level below 1.5 x 10-4 mbar is given in Figure 1b. The diagnostic access afforded by the vacuum chamber design on MAGPIE allows an extensive suite of diagnostics to be fielded alongside radiography, including gated soft x-ray imaging, multi-frame laser shadowography and schlieren, optical and x-ray streak cameras, further PCDs and x-ray diodes (XRDs), optical and x-ray spectroscopy, and time-integrated pinhole imaging. The characterisation of x-pinches in terms of material and wire size choice has been carried out in some detail previously, including their use for monochromatic [5] and high spatial resolution imaging including source size measurements [6]. For the current work, x-pinches were composed of 4 x 50µm aluminium (alloy 5056) wires. Axial targets were prepared at the Z-facility [7] for the experiment and formed from TPX, a CH2 foam, and were 1.6mm in diameter with densities of 15 mg/cc.


The detection of transmitted x-rays by the film-pack is a function of material and density. The absorption of 2-5 keV x-rays by the CH2 foam can be obtained from standard databases (e.g. [8]) given the appropriate density and path lengths. These parameters, however, are dynamic for tungsten, as the ablation of the array wires modifies the plasma fill with time. A good estimation of the density profile can be derived from the mass ablation model described in detail in reference [9]. Using this method, the total mass ablated from the wires in the array at a particular time in the current drive can be calculated. Experimentally observed velocities of the low density plasma removed from the wires by the global J x B force can then be included to construct radial density profiles. Assuming cylindrical symmetry, the observed areal density along a line of sight can be estimated for a given time. Example plots are given in Figure 2. Expected relative absorptions can then be compared to experimental data. Radiographic images have been obtained for tungsten arrays with both an onaxis and off-axis foam. The on-axis foam will be subject to the precursor flow of material ablated from array wires, while the off-axis foam is situated outside the array and is isolated from this bombardment. Images of both were obtained simultaneously from the same x-pinch source at 217ns after current start. Radial profiles can be compared to investigate the effect of the low density ablated plasma flow, and this is shown in Figure 3.

III. Discussion

The diameter of the on-axis foam is reduced compared to the off-axis foam, measured at 1.3mm and 1.6mm respectively. There are two possible explanations for


this observed change. Firstly, the foam may have been compressed. The considerable change in the lineout profile, particularly at the edges of the foam which show higher absorbance than some regions inside the foam diameter, indicates that a compression of the material or an accumulation of mass from the plasma flow is occurring. Alternatively, the foam may have been ablated to a reduced diameter, with the ablated material filling the 3mm diameter observed by laser shadowography on the same experiment. If this lower density material were transparent to x-rays in the range used for radiographic imaging, a diameter change would be observed. For this to be possible, the species present in this region must not absorb 2-5 keV radiation, and for low Z materials this will occur with fully ionised species. To assess the probability of this, the energy absorbed by the ablated CH material from the precursor flow can be compared to the energy required for full ionisation of carbon in the following way. The reduction in the foam diameter on the radiographic films give an ablated volume, and assuming density to be that of the original foam, an ablated mass. If this mass is assumed to be distributed equally throughout the volume defined by the laser imaging, 3mm, minus the on-axis radiograph diameter, 1.3mm, an average density for the CH in this region can be calculated. The derived number density multiplied by the energy per atom to fully ionise carbon, 1 keV, gives an estimate of the energy required to allow this volume to be transparent to the x-pinch diagnostic. Including the energy required to ablate the above volume yields a value of the order of 2 keV per ion. The ablation model referenced above also gives an expression for the kinetic energy flux at the surface of an object on axis. If it is assumed that this energy is solely used to ionise carbon in the low density CH plasma surrounding the ablated foam, we can estimate the maximum possible energy delivered. This is of the order of


200 eV per ion. From this argument it is likely that the foam is compressed, rather than ablated, by the precursor plasma flow ablated from the array wires. Quantitative analysis of radiographic images can be achieved using in-situ step-wedges. The ablation model analysis presented above provides a good basis for designing a step-wedge suitable for the expected species densities, and such a device will be fielded in these studies in the near future


This research was sponsored by Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, NM.


[1] R.B.Spielman et al, Plasma Phyics and Controlled Fusion, Vol 42 (Suppl. 12B), B157-B164, 2000

[2] S.A.Slutz et al, Phys. Plas., Vol 10 (5), p.1875, 2003

[3] I.H.Mitchell et al, Rev. Sci. Instrum., Vol 67 (4), p.1553, 1996

[4] S.V.Lebedev et al, Phys. Rev. Lett., Vol 85 (1), p.98, 2000

[5] S.A.Pikuz et al, Rev. Sci. Instrum., Vol 68 (1), p.740, 1997

[6] S.A.Pikuz et al, Proceedings of SPIE – International Society for Optical Engineering, 5196, p.25, 2004

[7] A.J.Antolak et al, Rev. Sci. Instrum. Vol 68 (1), p.858, 1997

[8] B.L. Henke et al, Atomic Data and Nuclear Data Tables Vol. 54 (2), p.181 (July 1993).

[9] S.V.Lebedev et al, Phys. Plas., Vol 8 (8), p.3734, 2001


FIGURE 1: Showing a) Array configuration for x-pinch radiography, showing positions of on- and off-axis foam targets, and b) typical current and x-ray traces for x-pinch

FIGURE 2: Plots showing a) calculated radial W density distribution with a 2mm foam on axis, and b) the derived areal density at 220ns

FIGURE 3: Showing a) radiographic images of (upper) off-axis and (lower) on-axis foam, and b) lineout profiles through images


M100 film Ti foil

PCD Signal / arb. units
1x10 8x10 6x10 4x10 2x10 0 -2x10 -4x10 0 100 200 300
5 6

Wire Array M100 film Ti foil X-pinch Off-axis foam

On-axis foam



Current / A







Return Current Posts

Time / ns

FIGURE 1, E05, S.C.Bott 9



Density / kg m3




0.01 0.000





Radius / m
Areal Density / g cm2


10-3 10-4 10-5 10-6






Radius / m

FIGURE 2, E05, S.C.Bott



Off-axis foam

Absorbance / arb units

100 75 50 25 0 0.0 On-axis foam





Scale / mm

FIGURE 3, E05, S.C.Bott 11