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Conditions deep inside giant planets recreated in lab

Last Updated: Friday, July 18, 2014 - 18:29

New York: In what could lead to better understanding of how giant planets form, researchers have experimentally recreated the conditions that exist deep inside giant planets, such as Jupiter, Uranus and many other planets recently discovered outside the solar system.

The experiments could help scientists accurately measure material properties that control how these planets evolve over time.

"The experimental techniques developed here provide a new capability to experimentally reproduce pressure-temperature conditions deep in planetary interiors," said lead author of the paper Ray Smith, a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in the US.
This study focused on carbon, the fourth most abundant element in the cosmos (after hydrogen, helium and oxygen), which has an important role in many types of planets within and outside the solar system.

Using the largest laser in the world, the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at LLNL in the US, the researchers squeezed samples to 50 million times Earth`s atmospheric pressure, which is comparable to the pressures at the centre of Jupiter and Saturn.

Of the 192 lasers at NIF, the team used 176 with exquisitely shaped energy versus time to produce a pressure wave that compressed the material for a short period of time.

The sample - diamond - is vaporised in less than 10 billionths of a second.
Though diamond is the least compressible material known, the researchers were able to compress it to an unprecedented density greater than lead at ambient conditions.

The study appeared in the journal Nature.

First Published: Friday, July 18, 2014 - 18:29
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