Scientists create insights into some of the excessive states of matter produced on Earth


Physicist Brian Kraus and figures from his paper. Credit: Elle Starkman/PPPL Office of Communications; Kiran Sudarsanan

Exotic laser-produced high-energy-density (HED) plasmas akin to these present in stars and nuclear explosions may present perception into occasions all through the universe. Physicists on the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have found a brand new strategy to measure and perceive these plasmas, among the many most excessive states of matter ever produced on Earth. Improved understanding may present advantages starting from fine-tuning the high-density plasmas in inertial confinement fusion experiments to raised understanding of processes all through the universe.

A billion occasions denser

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HED plasmas are a billion occasions denser than those who gas fusion reactions in tokamaks, doughnut-shaped magnetic fusion amenities such because the National Spherical Torus Experiment-Upgrade (NSTX-U) at PPPL. “Everything functions very differently in HED plasmas,” mentioned PPPL physicist Brian Kraus, lead writer of a paper in Physical Review Letters that describes the measurement methods. “We need to better understand how physics works at these very high densities, but clarifying measurements have been difficult up until now.”

Plasma includes 99 % of the seen universe and consists of free-floating electrons and atomic nuclei, or ions. HED plasmas are so dense as to be nearly stable, in contrast to the gaseous state of tokamak plasmas, creating circumstances that physicists are wanting to discover.

Kraus generated HED plasma by firing ultra-high-intensity lasers at skinny strips of titanium foil within the Laboratory for Advanced Lasers and Extreme Photonics at Colorado State University. He and colleagues then used state-of-the-art pc codes to investigate the high-resolution spectral knowledge that an X-ray diagnostic captured from the plasma, which flashed into existence for simply trillionths of a second.

The HED plasmas modified the X-ray strains by broadening and shifting them to decrease energies, Kraus mentioned. “Together these effects let us measure both the plasma density and the ion temperature, which had never been done before. These measurements are very difficult to obtain otherwise in such dense plasmas.”

The research revealed key features of the plasmas that had not been beforehand identified. For instance, the evaluation discovered that the temperature of ions and electrons weren’t equal, as had been assumed in such plasmas, and the ions had been considerably cooler. “It turns out that some approximations that people have been making don’t fit the data that we saw,” Kraus mentioned.

Overseeing the path-setting findings was Philip Efthimion, Kraus’s thesis advisor, who heads the Plasma Science & Technology Department at PPPL and was a co-author of the paper. “Phil really guided me in planning for experiments and choosing which data analyses to pursue,” mentioned Kraus. He acquired his doctorate from Princeton University in June and was named a workers researcher shortly thereafter.

‘Very particular’

“The results in Brian’s thesis are very special,” Efthimion mentioned. “Brian’s ability to understand the X-ray line broadening resulted in accurate measurements of the electron and ion temperatures, simultaneously. It allowed us to conclude that the electrons and ions are not in equilibrium. This is the first time this situation has been observed in plasma near solid density. Brian mastered many research tools to complete this work. Observing and understanding new phenomena is what truly excites scientists.”

The experiment at Colorado State was enabled by LaserNetUS, a brand new consortium of laser amenities organized by the Department of Energy. Kraus made the printed measurements as a part of this system’s first experimental cycle. “LaserNetUS is transforming the landscape of laser science in the U.S. by expanding access to high-quality laser facilities,” Kraus mentioned. “LaserNetUS provided us not just the runtime, but an opportunity to collaborate with great scientists outside of PPPL.”

Kraus had participated within the forerunner of the DOE Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI) program and discovered about plasma physics throughout the week-long course that PPPL delivered with this system. “I would never have heard about plasma until that course,” Kraus mentioned. He then did his internship on the DIII-D National Fusion Facility that General Atomics operates for the DOE in San Diego, California. “That convinced me that this is an area of physics that has pretty direct worldwide importance for potentially solving fusion and having clean power available for everyone,” he mentioned.

Kraus now’s putting in a high-speed digital camera to {photograph} the evolution of laser-produced HED plasmas at Colorado State. “We’re doing the same experiments this time but basically with a new camera that can see in time,” he mentioned. “It’s very hard to make a movie when you want to see things that are happening in trillionths of seconds, so it warrants new experiments to set that camera up and see what we can learn,” he mentioned.

Scientists are also growing “advanced codes without approximations that could enable complete modeling of HED plasmas,” Kraus mentioned. Using such codes to conduct the evaluation that PPPL has demonstrated may develop into “broadly relevant for diagnosing scorching plasmas close to stable density,” he added.

Upgraded code reveals a source of damaging fusion disruptions

More info:
B. F. Kraus et al, Solid-Density Ion Temperature from Redshifted and Double-Peaked Stark Line Shapes, Physical Review Letters (2021). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.127.205001

Scientists create insights into some of the excessive states of matter produced on Earth (2021, November 18)
retrieved 18 November 2021

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