Shock waves are ubiquitous in astrophysical environments and are tightly connected with magnetic-field amplification and particle acceleration. The fast progress in high-power laser technology is bringing the study of high Mach number shocks into the realm of laboratory plasmas, where in situ measurements can be made helping us understand the fundamental kinetic processes behind shocks. I will discuss the recent progress in laser-driven shock experiments at state-of-the-art facilities like NIF and Omega and the important role that ab initio massively parallel simulations are playing in the design of these experiments and in our understanding of the plasma microphysics involved in particle acceleration and radiation emission. Finally, I will show that by controlling the laser and plasma conditions it is possible to explore different particle acceleration mechanisms, from Fermi-like processes, which are relevant in astrophysics, to the generation of high-quality ion beams for radiotherapy.
Autumn 2014/15, Committee: A. Linde (Chair), L. Hollberg, B. Macintosh & Young Lee