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Washington State University Institute for Shock Physics


The equipment at the Institute for Shock Physics has been categorized into four areas:  Dynamic Compression, Diagnostics, Sample Characterization and Preparation, and Static High Pressure.

Dynamic Compression

Impact Facilities Equipment

ISP has seven launchers (gas, powder, 2-stage guns) for conducting impact experiments with peak stresses approaching 200 GPa.

  • Three single stage light gas guns with impact velocities up to 1.5 km/s and bores of 2.5”, 3”, and 4”.  Directional loading capabilities include compression and compression/shear.
  • Three powder guns with impact velocities up to 2.5 km/s and bores of ½” and 1.2”.  One of these powder guns is used exclusively for X-ray diffraction measurements (see Diagnostics section).
  • A two stage gun with impact velocities up to 7 km/s and bore diameters of ½”, ¾”, and 1”.

Additional items associated with the impact facilities include mechanical and electrical control equipment, a dedicated precision lathe, and gun performance diagnostics (pressure gauges, electrical and optical velocity measurements, power supplies, etc.).

Laser Shock Facility Equipment

A high energy, pulsed Nd:YAG laser is used to generate ≤30 ns duration pressure pulses, and relatively rapid repetition rates (up to 10 shots/day).  The incident laser pulse launches 3 mm diameter thin foils at up to 1.5 km/s with up to 40% optical to mechanical energy conversion.  Multiple diagnostics are used to monitor the quality and efficiency of the laser drive.

Compact Pulsed Power Generator

The Compact Pulsed Power Generator  is based on technology developed at Sandia National Laboratories (the Z Accelerator) and is one of only two such facilities currently operating in the United States.
Loading characteristics include:

  • Shockless, high pressure loading
  • Peak pressures to 20 GPa
  • Sample sizes up to 3 cm
  • Pressure wave risetime ~500 ns
  • 2 shots/day, up to 4 samples/shot


Laser Interferometry

ISP has 4 laser interferometry systems (VISAR’s) for wave profile measurements.

  • Single point VISAR optimized for high contrast measurements.  Contrast up to 99%, time resolution as low as 200 ps, velocity resolution as low as 0.5 m/s.
  • Two dual VPF 4-point VISAR’s optimized for multiple surface measurements, velocity accuracy, simultaneous particle velocity and shock velocity measurements, and shock wave uniformity.  Time resolution as low as 200 ps, velocity resolution as low as 0.5 m/s.
  • Line imaging VISAR for heterogeneous material response measurements.  Linear spatial resolution of 10 µm attainable.

Interferometer components include high power narrow linewidth CW lasers, high bandwidth digitizers, high speed optical detectors and amplifiers, a streak camera, laser modulators, delay generators, piezo drivers/positioners, precision optics, optics tables, and laser enclosures.

Time-resolved Optical Spectroscopy

Time-resolved optical spectroscopy systems include:

  • Raman, time resolved and high resolution snap-shot:  Stokes and anti-Stokes measurements, -2000 to 4000 cm-1 spectral coverage, as low as 3 cm-1 FWHM resolution, single photon sensitivity, as low as 1 ns temporal resolution
  • Absorption:  250-750 nm spectral coverage, ≥1 nm FWHM resolution, single photon sensitivity, as low as 200 ps temporal resolution
  • Emission:  400-700 nm spectral coverage, ≥1 nm FWHM resolution, single photon sensitivity, ≥5 ns temporal resolution
  • Photoluminescence and Photoluminescence lifetime:  250-850 nm spectral coverage, ≥1 nm FWHM resolution, single photon sensitivity, as low as 200 ps temporal resolution
  • Reflection:  250-850 nm spectral coverage, ≥1 nm FWHM resolution, single photon sensitivity, as low as 200 ps temporal resolution

Equipment includes streak cameras with nanosecond and picosecond resolution; intensified CCD detectors; high throughput imaging spectrometers; pulsed Nd: YAG pumped tunable laser to provide coverage from 350 nm to 1.06 micrometer; flash lamp pumped dye lasers; Ar-ion lasers; xenon flash lamps.  Instruments include high speed digitizers, picoseconds resolution delay generators, power supplies, pulse generators, shutters, etc.

Snap-Shot and Time-Resolved X-Ray Diffraction

A facility for real-time X-ray diffraction measurements in single shot compression experiments for deformation and phase transition measurements.

  • 2 pulsed X-ray sources, 50 ns pulsewidth
  • 2 indirect detection intensified CCD cameras
  • 1 direct detection CCD camera
  • X-ray streak camera, nanosecond and picoseconds time resolution
  • Large goiniometer, 0.006° resolvable peak shift

Other instruments include high speed digitizers, picoseconds resolution delay generators, power supplies, pulse generators, vacuum systems, etc.

High Speed Framing Camera

Camera with nanosecond inter-frame times to directly image changes in materials over length scales of ten microns to centimeters.

Pump/Probe Impulsive Stimulated Light Scattering (ISLS)

When integrated with an impact facility, single shot time resolved sound speeds are measured.  When not used in impact measurements, acoustic and thermal properties of small samples under static high pressure are measured using diamond anvil cells.

  • Mode-locked, regenerative amplified laser, selectable or simultaneous 1064 nm, 532 nm, 355 nm output wavelengths, 100 ps pulsewidth, single shot to kHz rep rate.
  • High power, narrow linewidth, CW probe laser
  • Low noise, high bandwidth detectors
  • Low noise, high gain amplifiers
  • High speed digitizers
  • Shutters/choppers

Sample Recovery

A range of low and high stress sample recovery capabilities exist for all the devices listed in the Dynamic Compression section.  In house polishing and metrology instruments are utilized post-shot sample analysis (see Sample Characterization and Preparation section).

Additional Equipment/Instruments

Wide range of high speed digitizers, optical and electrical detectors, high resolution delay generators, power supplies, cryostats, calibration standards, and ancillary electronic equipment, as needed, are available.

Sample Characterization and Preparation

X-Ray Diffraction

  • PANalytical 4 kW system for Laue forward and back reflection imaging of single crystals using a Micro Photonics Laue X-Ray imaging CCD.
  • PANalytical 3 kW X’Pert Pro system for characterization of polycrystalline materials and powders.


A Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy system with PM-IRRAS is available for sample analysis and characterization for bulk samples, micro and nano-sized samples, and samples under high pressure using diamond anvil cells.

Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM)

FEI Nova Nano SEM 230 with energy dispersive spectrometry for chemical characterization.  The SEM can achieve 1 nanometer resolution, image non-conductive and magnetic samples, and includes a sputter coater to coat non-metallic samples to create conductivity for higher resolution.

Metrology Equipment

  • Ultrasonic longitudinal and shear sound speed measurement system
  • Micro-indentation hardness measurements
  • High magnification optical microscopes and stereoscopes
  • Instron materials testing machine, 50 kN capacity
  • Autocollimator for precision surface alignment
  • High precision sample dimension flatness and parallelism
  • Differential scanning calorimetry system

Sample Preparation Equipment

  • Evaporation deposition machines
  • High temperature programmable furnaces and tube furnaces
  • Slow and high speed diamond and abrasive saws for cutting, slicing, slotting and wafering
  • Lapping and polishing machines
  • Heated press and high pressure presses
  • Machine shop with lathes, mill, drill press, cut-off saws, ultrasonic impact grinder, and associated tooling
  • Precision scales, 0.00001 g resolution

Static High Pressure

Static High Pressure Equipment

Diamond Anvil Cells (DACs) enabling static and dynamic high pressure measurements to pressures exceeding 200 GPa.

  • Types of diamond anvil cells:
  • Merrill-Bassett and modified Merrill-Bassett DACs
  • membrane-DAC
  • dynamic-DAC
  • 3L-DAC

Equipment includes:

  • High speed CMOS imaging camera
  • Argon ion lasers, solid state diode pumped lasers, pulsed laser system
  • Paris-Edinburgh large volume press
  • High pressure loader for condensed gas loading and light gas pressure mediums
  • Imaging stereo microscopes
  • Shutters and chopper
  • Digitizers