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Scientists study stellar matter under pressure for the first time in the laboratory

Photo: hzdr.de

During the experiment, the properties and behavior of matter under extreme conditions were revealed, which are important for astrophysics and nuclear fusion.

An international research team has conducted laboratory experiments at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory that provide new insights into the complex process of pressurized ionization of giant planets and stars. The results of the study were published in the journal Nature on May 24.

Scientists used the largest and most powerful National Ignition Facility (NIF) laser in the world to create the extreme conditions necessary for pressurized ionization.

Using 184 laser beams, the team heated a cavity containing a 2 mm diameter sample of beryllium. As a result, within a few nanoseconds, a small piece of matter is formed, like in a dwarf star.

A highly compressed sample of beryllium, 30 times denser than the surrounding solid, observed that after intense heating and compression, at least three of its four electrons moved to the leading states.

The researchers recalled that the matter in the depths of the giant planets and some relatively cold stars is strongly compressed by the weight of the upper layers, and such conditions lead to its complete ionization. While ionization in hot stars is primarily determined by temperature, pressure ionization dominates in cooler objects.

“The degree of ionization of atoms within stars is critical to how efficiently energy can be transported from the center outwards by radiation… If it is too violent, life as we know it may not be possible in close orbits around small stars,” explained Dominik Kraus, professor of physics at the University of Rostock and leader of the Helmholtz Center Dresden-Rossendorf team involved in the study.

Illustration for the experiment: hzdr.de

Despite the importance of the structure and evolution of celestial objects, pressure ionization as a method to highly ionized objects is theoretically insufficiently studied. In addition, the necessary extreme states of matter are very difficult to create and study, says physicist Thilo Doppner of the Lawrence Laboratory who led the project.

“Our work opens up new ways to study and model the behavior of matter under extreme compression. Ionization in dense plasma is a key parameter,” he said.

The study also has significant implications for fusion experiments, Doppner added.

Ronald Redmer, professor of physics at the University of Rostock, emphasized that modeling and analyzing the studied plasma states is a very complex process that requires a lot of computing power. It took several years to reach the current understanding of experimental data.

Scientists hope to gain further insight into matter under the pressure of billions of atmospheres at a facility in Germany. They want to achieve similar conditions on a smaller scale, which would allow for more experimentation than is possible at NIF.

It was previously reported that scientists captured the object from the light.

Physicists measured the “lifetime” of the legendary particle

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Source: korrespondent

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