The rate at which atoms and ions within a plasma are further ionized by collisions with the free electrons is a fundamental parameter that dictates the dynamics of plasma systems at intermediate and high densities. While collision rates are well known experimentally in a few dilute systems, similar measurements for nonideal plasmas at densities approaching or exceeding those of solids remain elusive. Here we describe a spectroscopic method to study collision rates in solid-density aluminium plasmas created and diagnosed using the Linac Coherent light Source free-electron X-ray laser, tuned to specific interaction pathways around the absorption edges of ionic charge states. We estimate the rate of collisional ionization in solid-density aluminium plasmas at temperatures ~30 eV to be several times higher than that predicted by standard semiempirical models.
An experimentally determined emission spectrum of a dense aluminum plasma formed by a focused beam of free electron X-ray laser.