Creating the Conditions Inside Supergiant Planets

We won’t be visiting a supergiant planet any time soon. But physicists are about to do the next best thing, and creat the conditions that exist inside the most dense planets right here on Earth. What used to require a nuclear explosion should now be possible with diamond anvils and powerful lasers.

Researchers from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), New Mexico State University and France’s Atomic Energy Commission announced this week that they have achieved pressures of 10 million atmospheres using a 30 kilojoule ultraviolet laser. The next step will be to use a 2 megajoule laser to achieve more than a billion atmospheres of pressure. Just for comparison, the centre of the Earth squeezes with a little less than 4 to 5 million atmospheres, and the centre of Jupiter is 70 million atmospheres.

Half of the apparatus uses diamond anvils, which can squeeze liquids and solids under high pressures. The researchers then blast the material with a laser-induced shock wave, and compressing it even more. Of course, you need a laser the size of a building, and half the diamond anvil is vapourized.

Once they reached pressures this high, scientists are discovering entirely new realms of chemistry. The just need to work quickly. The high pressure is only maintained for 1 or 2 nanoseconds.

Original Source: UC Berkeley News Release