Scientists recreate stellar combustion conditions using compact lasers

The energy density inside a stellar core measures in the billions of atmosphere.
By Brooks Hays   |   Jan. 11, 2017 at 4:31 PM

FORT COLLINS, Colo., Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Until now, recreating the conditions inside a star required the use of massive lasers -- lasers the size of football stadiums. Experiments at Colorado State University suggest compact lasers can be manipulated to produce similarly extreme conditions.

At sea level, humans experience a single atmosphere of pressure. The energy density inside a stellar core measures in the billions of atmospheres. Recreating these intense conditions is difficult.

Recently, scientists realized they could recreate intense stellar pressure using much smaller lasers by hitting nanowire arrays with ultra-short laser pulses. Researchers measured the X-rays emitted by the irradiated arrays, which revealed the penetration of extreme energies within the microstructures of the nanowires.

Scientists used the results to build numerical models, while predicted more intense irradiation produced by more powerful -- but still compact -- ultrafast lasers would be sufficient to generate pressure more intense than the center of the sun.

The breakthrough -- detailed in the journal Science Advances -- could make high energy and density physics accessible to researchers without assess to the world's biggest lasers. The work could provide a boost to researchers working on ways to generate nuclear fusion using lasers.

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