World’s largest laser re-creates giant planets’ conditions in lab for first time

Washington: Scientists have experimentally re-created the conditions that endure deep inside the giant planets like Jupiter, Uranus and many of the planets recently discovered outside our solar system with the help of very powerful laser.

The National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, teams from the Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley and Princeton University squeezed samples to 50 million times Earth’s atmospheric pressure, which is comparable to the pressures at the center of Jupiter and Saturn with the help of world’s largest laser.

Of the 192 lasers at NIF, the team used 176 with exquisitely shaped energy versus time to produce a pressure wave that compressed the material for a short period of time and the sample diamond was vaporized in less than 10 billionths of a second. Though diamond would be the least compressible material known, the researchers were able to compress it to an unprecedented density greater than lead at ambient conditions.

Rip Collins, Lawrence Livermore physicist, said that this new ability to explore matter at atomic scale pressures, where extrapolations of earlier shock and static data become unreliable, provided new constraints for dense matter theories and planet evolution models.

The data described in this work were among the first tests for predictions made in the early days of quantum mechanics, more than 80 years ago, which were routinely used to describe matter at the center of planets and stars. While agreement between these new data and theory are good, there are important differences discovered, suggesting potential hidden treasures in the properties of diamond compressed to such extremes.

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