Atomistic investigation of cavitation and ablation in tantalum foils under irradiation with x-rays approaching 5 keV

MJ Duff and PG Heighway and JD McHardy and A D'Souza and RS McWilliams and JS Wark and MI McMahon, PHYSICAL REVIEW B, 106, 024107 (2022).

DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevB.106.024107

The rapid irradiation and heating of matter can lead to material removal via a process known as ablation. While previous investigations have focused on ablation with optical and soft x-ray pulses, the process is not well understood for the high-energy x-rays delivered at current x-ray free electron laser facilities. In this paper, we use hybrid two- temperature model molecular dynamics simulations to determine the damage threshold and dynamics for tantalum foils under irradiation with x-rays in the range 1-5 keV. We report that damage occurs for foils with thickness >= 300 nm when heated to around 1.25 eV/atom. This damage results from the combined processes of melting and cavitation, finally resulting in the removal of material layers. The predictions of this study, in terms of the cavitation threshold and underlying dynamics, could guide interpretation of experiments as well as applications including development of beamline optics for free-electron lasers. We report consistency between cavitation and ablation behavior in isochoric heating experiments and spall processes in hydrodynamic compression and release experiments, confirming the primary modes of damage are mechanical in nature for the x-ray energies investigated.

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