New Laser Could Heat Materials to Hotter than the Sun in a Fraction of a Second

Friday, 13 November 2015 - 2:57PM
Friday, 13 November 2015 - 2:57PM
New Laser Could Heat Materials to Hotter than the Sun in a Fraction of a Second
Did we just get one step closer to the Death Star's superlaser? In a new study published today in Nature Communications, researchers from Imperial College London detailed a theoretical method for building a laser that could heat objects to ten million degrees, hotter than the center of the Sun, in only 20 quadrillionths of a second, or within a millionth of a millionth of a second. 

Most high-powered lasers function by heating up the electrons in the target material, which then heat up the ions. But in this study, the researchers devised a way to heat up the ions directly; when they fired a high-intensity laser at a certain type of material, an electromagnetic shockwave was created that could heat the ions without first heating the electrons.
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"It's a completely unexpected result," lead study author Arthur Turrel said in a statement. "One of the problems with fusion research has been getting the energy from the laser in the right place at the right time. This method puts energy straight into the ions."
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In many materials, the shockwave simply pushes ions in front of it so they accelerate away from the wave, and do not receive any heat. But when the material has a combination of two kinds of ions, modeling showed that they would be accelerated at different speeds. This would create friction, which would, in turn, create heat.

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"The two types of ions act like matches and a box; you need both," said co-author Dr. Mark Sherlock. "A bunch of matches will never light on their own - you need the friction caused by striking them against the box."
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If the technique is proven experimentally, it would be the fastest heating rate ever demonstrated in a laboratory, about 100 times faster than the highest rates in recent experiments with lasers. This method could lead to new avenues of research in fusion energy, or replicating the Sun's ability to produce clean energy without the use of fossil fuels. So while we may be closer to creating a superlaser that could destroy planets, we may be able to use the laser to help preserve our own.

Via Gizmodo.
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Technology

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