Millionth of a Second or Less to Heat Stuff Up Hotter Than the Sun with Laser

This new laser will be the holy grail of nuclear fusion once it sees reality. Created by a group of theoretical physicists at the Imperial College London, it is capable of heating certain materials to temperatures hotter than at the Sun’s core in 20 quadrillionths of a second. It throws off the world’s most energetic laser system at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, California with 100 times more speed.

The scientists stumbled across this new invention idea as they attempted to recreate conditions and processes similar to those found in the interior of the Sun to power nuclear reactors. One of the major challenges of this is to heat up a target rapidly to incredible high temperatures.

The solution was not to find increasingly stronger lasers but to cut out the middle factor. The usual working process of a laser is that it heats up the electrons of a substance and subsequently the ions. This is takes some time. They tried to find a way to heat the ions directly

According to Dr Arthur Turrell, they made the unexpected discovered that if certain kinds of materials are struck by a high-intensity laser, they generate what is called an electrostatic shock wave. This led to the release of ions, once struck by the lasers, but without any heating effect. The team discovered other higher density materials such as plastic or caesium hydride that had their ions crammed tightly together. There are a special combination of ions that are accelerated at different speeds and have their own friction. Also, additional friction is created when the ions were pushed out because of the cramming effect.

“The two types of ions act like matches and a box; you need both,” says Dr Mark Sherlock of the Department of Physics at Imperial. “A bunch of matches will never light on their own – you need the friction caused by striking them against the box.”

“Faster temperature changes happen when atoms smash together in accelerators like the Large Hadron Collider, but these collisions are between single pairs of particles,” said Dr Turrell. “In contrast the proposed technique could be explored at many laser facilities around the world, and would heat material at solid density.”

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