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Kinetic modeling of x-ray laser-driven solid Al plasmas via particle-in-cell simulation
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Solid-density plasmas driven by intense x-ray free-electron laser (XFEL) radiation are seeded by sources of nonthermal photoelectrons and Auger electrons that ionize and heat the target via collisions. Simulation codes that are commonly used to model such plasmas, such as collisional-radiative (CR) codes, typically assume a Maxwellian distribution and thus instantaneous thermalization of the source electrons. In this study, we present a detailed description and initial applications of a collisional particle-in-cell code, PICLS, that has been extended with a self-consistent radiation transport model and Monte Carlo models for photoionization and KLL Auger ionization, enabling the fully kinetic simulation of XFEL-driven plasmas. The code is used to simulate two experiments previously performed at the Linac Coherent Light Source investigating XFEL-driven solid-density Al plasmas. It is shown that PICLS-simulated pulse transmissions using the Ecker-Kroll continuum-lowering model agree much better with measurements than do simulations using the Stewart-Pyatt model. Good quantitative agreement is also found between the time-dependent PICLS results and those of analogous simulations by the CR code SCFLY, which was used in the analysis of the experiments to accurately reproduce the observed Ka emissions and pulse transmissions. Finally, it is shown that the effects of the nonthermal electrons are negligible for the conditions of the particular experiments under investigation.