Temperature Conditions of a Supernova Recreated

May 30, 2008

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.

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 (9┬Ám) across. 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 degrees Kelvin.

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