A scientist cleans a vacuum spatial filter for the Vulcan Petawatt Facility during construction (Rutherford Appleton Laboratory)

Temperature Conditions of a Supernova Recreated in UK Laboratory

29 May , 2008 by

Scientists are one step closer to attaining the ultimate goal: producing temperatures high enough to sustain fusion, the reaction that powers our Sun and the possible future for global energy production. Researchers at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire, UK, have attained temperatures higher than the surface of the Sun, 10 million Kelvin (or Celsius), by using a powerful one petawatt laser called Vulcan. This experiment goes beyond the quest for fusion power; generating these high temperatures recreates the conditions of cosmological events such as supernova explosions, and astronomical bodies like white dwarfs and neutron star atmospheres…

This is some awesome research. An international collaboration of researchers from the UK, Europe, Japan and the US have succeeded in harnessing an equivalent of 100 times the world energy production into a tiny spot, measuring a fraction of the width of a human hair. That’s a whopping one petawatt of energy (one thousand million million watts, or enough to power ten trillion 100W light bulbs) focused on a volume measuring about 0.000009 metres (9µm) across (I took the value of the diameter of a human hair to be 90µm, as measured by Piezo Technology, in case you were interested). This is a vast improvement on previous tests, where the volume heated measured 20 times smaller than this new experiment. This feat was achieved through the use of Rutherford Appleton’s Vulcan laser.

The petawatt laser was able to attain this vast power by delivering a very short-period pulse onto the target. After all, the planet didn’t experience a black out as the laser was switched on, the laser is able to amplify the amount of power available by focusing on a microscopic volume for a short period of time. Vulcan blasted its target with the one petawatt laser beam for a mere 1 picosecond (one millionth of a millionth of a second). This may seem miniscule, but this microscopic period of time allowed the target material to be heated to the 10 million Kelvin.

These tests not only allow scientists to study what happens when matter is heated to such extremes, it also paves the way to more powerful lasers fusing the nuclei of hydrogen, deuterium and tritium. Self-sustaining nuclear fusion may then be possible, unlocking a gateway into a huge source of energy. It is conceivable that a future fusion reactor will use a powerful, focused laser to start fusion events, allowing the energy produced by each reaction to power the next. This is the basis of self-sustaining nuclear fusion.

This is an exciting development – we now have a new tool with which to study really hot, dense matter” – Prof. Peter Norreys, STFC funded researcher and Vulcan scientist.

The Vulcan has some stiff competition though. In the US, the Texas Petawatt laser broke the record for most powerful laser a few days ago, reaching energies in excess of one petawatt. But plans for a bigger UK laser, the Hiper (High Power laser Energy Research), will be even more powerful and is intended to investigate fusion power.

Source: Telegraph


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Al Hall
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Al Hall
May 29, 2008 6:05 PM

Youch!!….. That’s gotta be hot!

Nico
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Nico
May 29, 2008 7:09 PM

Wow, so now we are able to produce a supernova? This is so taken out of sci-fi movies, I can’t wait to see the video recording of a supernova on earth.

Sili
Member
Sili
May 29, 2008 7:14 PM

Time to nitpick:

Power ≠ energy

And UK ∈ Europe

Timber
Member
Timber
May 29, 2008 7:15 PM

Sure puts your previous post in perspective

Rob
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Rob
May 29, 2008 8:59 PM

Ummm, being hotter than the *surface* of the Sun is not difficult, since it’s only 5770 K. I assume you meant the *core*.

I enjoy reading your articles and listening to the astronomycasts. Keep it up.

Cybe R. Wizard
Guest
Cybe R. Wizard
May 29, 2008 10:28 PM

One million milionths of a second would be one second, wouldn’t it?
Did you perhaps mean a millionth of a millionth of a second?

bugzzz
Member
bugzzz
May 29, 2008 10:36 PM

Does Mr. Spock know we’re using his laser? It’s always better to ask before blowdrying one’s hair to a supernova. I almost made sense there.

Robert
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Robert
May 29, 2008 11:03 PM

To nitpick even further:

10 million K is 2/3 the solar core temp.

Solar core ~ 15 million K

Akshat Tanksale
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Akshat Tanksale
May 29, 2008 11:15 PM

To nitpick even further ……. “0.0009 metres (9µm) across” should actually be 0.9µm. The results are exciting nonetheless smile

Pigalle
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Pigalle
May 29, 2008 11:20 PM

That’s truly wonderful. Suistainable fusion would change everything. Goodbye oil and goodbye global warming. Woho!

Martines
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Martines
May 29, 2008 11:53 PM

Well would not say goodbye to global warming. This thing is HOT!

alphonso richardson
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alphonso richardson
May 30, 2008 12:54 AM

I wonder if they put a warning sticker on the thing just in case anyone was stupid enough to touch it & then try to sue them?

Cybe R. Wizard
Guest
Cybe R. Wizard
May 30, 2008 3:30 AM

A further nit-pick, you said:
“This is a vast improvement on previous tests, where the volume heated measured 20 times less than this new experiment.”

One time less is zero. Subtraction is not multiplicative, it is divisive. Twenty times less enters (rather far) into negative numbers.
Sheesh, science writers. Maybe they could learn some science and math.

owen
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owen
May 30, 2008 5:54 AM

this all very exciting.

Astrofiend
Member
Astrofiend
May 30, 2008 7:58 AM
Cybe R. Wizard Says: May 30th, 2008 at 3:30 am “Sheesh, science writers. Maybe they could learn some science and math.” Sheesh Cybe R. Wizard, maybe you could learn to interpret the meaning of a sentence from its context and not be such a pedantic whiner. Not two days ago I wrote, in reference to a completely different situation, “F-M-D; the people that write these articles keep doing so for God-knows-what-reason. Half of what they write is lambasted by morons with an axe to grind, and yet they continue to churn out quality stories anyway which we should all be grateful for.” … and once again it is thoroughly applicable. I’m sure the writers at UT don’t find… Read more »
Peter
Member
Peter
May 30, 2008 11:53 AM

But isn’t heat the result of the gravitic pressure at the centre of the sun? So skip the pressure and just go for the heat. Can’t fake the gravity of the sun so lets do a work-around. Compacting fuel (hydrogen?) could be done using sound, magnetic pulses and if you have the heat, then boom…fusion. Or…hopefully not …um…an actual “boom”. (:

alokmohan
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alokmohan
May 31, 2008 4:43 AM

There seems a confusion between supernova and fusion.

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