London: Lasers could heat materials to temperatures hotter than the centre of the Sun in only 20 quadrillionths of a second, according to a new research.
Theoretical physicists from Imperial College London have devised an extremely rapid heating mechanism that they believe could heat certain materials to 10 million degrees in much less than a million millionth of a second.
The method could be relevant to new avenues of research in thermonuclear fusion energy, where scientists are seeking to replicate the Sun’s ability to produce clean energy.
The heating would be about 100 times faster than rates currently seen in fusion experiments using the world’s most energetic laser system at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.
Researchers have been using high-power lasers to heat material as part of the effort to create fusion energy for many years.
In this new study, the physicists at Imperial were looking for ways to directly heat up ions — particles which make up the bulk of matter.
When lasers are used to heat most materials, the energy from the laser first heats up the electrons in the target. These in turn heat up the ions, making the process slower than targeting the ions directly.
The Imperial team discovered that when a high-intensity laser is fired at a certain type of material, it will create an electrostatic shockwave that can heat ions directly.
“It’s a completely unexpected result. One of the problems with fusion research has been getting the energy from the laser in the right place at the right time. This method puts energy straight into the ions,” said lead author Arthur Turrell.
The findings were published in the journal Nature Communications.