The dynamics of expansion, thermodynamics, and chemical reactions in laser-produced plasmas is of general interest for all laser ablation applications. This study investigates the complex morphology and behavior of reactive species in nanosecond laser-produced uranium plasmas. Comparing plasma morphology in various inert and reactive ambient gases provides information about the role of gas-phase chemistry in plume hydrodynamics. Background gases including nitrogen and argon foster collisional interactions leading to more significant plume confinement and the increase in persistence of uranium species. On the other hand, environments containing reactive gases such as oxygen promote chemical reactions between the plasma and ambient species. By comparing the expansion dynamics of uranium plumes in nitrogen, air, and argon, we discover that chemical reactions modify the hydrodynamics of the plume at later times of its evolution in the air background. Furthermore, we observe that varying the concentration of oxygen in the fill gas promotes different reaction pathways that lead to the formation of uranium oxides. The reaction pathways from atoms to diatomic to polyatomic molecules strongly vary with ambient oxygen concentration. Lower oxygen concentrations enhance the formation of uranium monoxide from atomic uranium, whereas higher oxygen concentrations tend to depopulate both atomic uranium and uranium monoxide concentrations through the formation of more complex uranium oxides.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Condensed Matter Physics