Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Lasers Could Heat Objects to Be Hotter Than the Sun

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Lasers Could Heat Objects to Be Hotter Than the Sun

Article excerpt

Lasers could heat materials to temperatures hotter than the center of the Sun in only 20 quadrillionths of a second, according to new research.

Theoretical physicists from Imperial College London have devised an extremely rapid heating mechanism that they believe could heat certain materials to 10 million degrees in much less than a million-millionth of a second.

The method, proposed for the first time, could be relevant to new avenues of research in thermonuclear fusion energy, where scientists are seeking to replicate the Sun's ability to produce clean energy.

The heating would be about 100 times faster than rates in fusion experiments using the world's most energetic laser system at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. The race is now on for fellow scientists to put the team's method into practice.

Researchers have been using high-power lasers to heat material as part of the effort to create fusion energy for many years. In this new study, the physicists at Imperial were looking for ways to directly heat ions, the particles that make up the bulk of matter.

When lasers are used to heat most materials, the energy from the laser first heats the electrons in the target, which in turn heat the ions. This makes the process slower than targeting the ions directly.

The Imperial team discovered that a high-intensity laser fired at a certain type of material will create an electrostatic shockwave that can heat ions directly. Their discovery was published in the journal Nature Communications. …

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