Say I have a lithium foil as a target for a laser. Li has $3$ protons and $3$ electrons and therefore $3$ degrees of ionization associated with $3$ ionization energies (for removing the first, second and third electron).

How do I relate the characteristics of the laser to the ionization outcome in the target? In other words, how do laser parameters such as pulse length and shape, photon energy, and intensity affect how many of the Li atoms in my target get ionized to the $1st$ , $2nd$ , and $3rd$ degree?

I realize that a comprehensive answer may be complicated but perhaps you can share how you recommend to think about the problem and/or link to useful references.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ A comprehensive answer is much too complicated for a single thread here. But, as a start: if you have lithium foil, the lithium atoms are not in isolation, and the electrons (particularly the $2s$ electrons, which form the conduction band) are not assigned to individual atoms. The "three ionization energies" you mention apply for isolated atoms in gas phase. So there's a lot to re-think there. $\endgroup$ Nov 25 at 18:23
  • $\begingroup$ I second @EmilioPisanty...I am surrounded by people that do this kind of things all the time and the typical way to know which kind of degree of ionization will come out of the targets is typically by actually performing the experiment and back it up by very long computational simulations after one knows everything surrounding the experiment. Because when you go to high field strengths lots of complicated things happen. Nonetheless, a good starting point is always literature. $\endgroup$ Nov 26 at 21:40

Three different energies are needed to remove the $1^{st}$, $2^{nd}$, and $3^{rd}$ electrons. This means photons with three different wavelengths are needed.

  • $\begingroup$ Yes that would be the case if one were to only consider the photoelectric effect (see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photoemission_spectroscopy) but when considering high-intensity laser pulses, there seem to be other ionization mechanisms at play such as multiphoton ionization and other mechanisms (see for instance aip.scitation.org/doi/abs/10.1063/1.1814367). It would be great to have the essential aspects of those other ionization mechanisms spelled out in a concise way. $\endgroup$
    – MrFu
    Nov 25 at 17:00
  • $\begingroup$ @MrFu For the ultra-wide net you're trying to cast here, it is not possible to summarize the field of atomic ionization via nonlinear interactions in a concise way. Even rephrasing the question to eliminate the solid-state target and replace it with an isolate atom still leaves too wide of a field. Have you tried starting with e.g. Wikipedia? $\endgroup$ Nov 25 at 18:27
  • $\begingroup$ If you are trying to figure out what kind of laser to buy for a specific application, you might start here - Lasers. This describes lasers in general, but has links to articles that might be more in the direction you want. It also has links to many laser manufacturers. The Buyers Guide can help you find one that sells the kind of laser you want. A laser manufacturer can help you get the right kind of laser. $\endgroup$
    – mmesser314
    Nov 25 at 19:30

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