SLAC Scientists Create An “Extreme Universe”
Science | August 11, 2016
Our current state of science is as vast as it is complex. New and amazing technologies are being created every day: Solar power panels getting energy from raindrops and bacteria, drones that can detect active landmines and remove them before being detonated, and even a completely solar powered aircraft. And now the U.S. Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory is exploring the mass effect of cosmic events in their simulated universe. The SLAC Lab has been open since 1962 and has been a helping hand in creating the future. In fact, there are over 1,000 scientific papers published each year based on research that happens in this laboratory.
And with important advancements in its technology, the SLAC Lab is now capable of recreating some of the most violent cosmic events known to the universe. These are events that can prove, or disprove, predictions and theories about our universe works and how the most drastic space phenomena affect different objects in the cosmos. The organization has been able to achieve a large number of cosmic events on a much smaller scale within the confines of their laboratories. Now, they can add a simulated universe to their roster.
Seigfrid Glenzer, the head of SLAC’s High Energy Density Science Division, and his colleagues have successfully turned graphite into lonsdaleite. In a natural process, graphite can be turned into a diamond under enough high pressure, and after thousands of years. But scientists predicted that when a meteor hits graphite on the surface it can create lonsdaleite, a form of diamond that is much more durable than regular diamonds. By setting off a shock wave inside the sample cell and condensing it using a strong optical laser pulse, the team of scientists were able to successfully confirm their theory.
Glenzer and his colleagues have also tested whether liquid hydrogen would transform from its normally electricity-insulating state into a conducting metallic state when revealed to high temperature and pressure, very similar to the gas inside giants like Jupiter. In order to test this theory, the team took a sample of liquid deuterium, a heavy form of hydrogen, and quickly heated and condensed it using the high-power Janus laser. At a pressure above 250,000 atmospheres and temperature of 3,871 degrees Celsius (7,000 degrees Fahrenheit), the deuterium did indeed transmute into a conducting metallic state. “Understanding this process provides new details about planet formation and the evolution of the solar system,” Glenzer explains.
SLAC researchers are currently conducting other experiments that aim to better understand the effects of cosmic events, planet’s formation, and other universal processes. Experiments and tests are continuously ongoing, as they try to better understand how cosmic accelerators work. I wonder what they will find next.