September 26, 2022

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They bombard ordinary plastic with lasers: they get nanodiamonds and a new type of water

Image source 6.slac.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/mec_diamond_formation_la_final.jpg



New research inspired by ice giants such as Neptune and Uranus shows that lasers can turn A common plastic in small diamonds.

Using extremely powerful lasers, the scientists blasted the cheap plastic into tiny ‘nano diamonds’, in doing so confirming the existence of a strange new type of water. .

The results could likely reveal the presence of diamond showers on ice giants in our solar system and explain why these icy worlds have such strange magnetic fields. Laser blasting technology could also lead to more terrestrial applications.

Nano diamonds are diamonds that are only a few nanometers in size, or billionths of a meter in size. They have current and potential applications, such as converting carbon dioxide into other gases and delivering drugs into the body, study co-author Dominic Krause, a physicist at Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf in Germany, told Live Science.

“Nanodiamonds can also be used as very small and very accurate quantum sensors for temperature and magnetic fields, which can lead to many applications,” Krause said.

He said the technology could also reduce plastic pollution by creating an economic incentive to clean up and divert plastic from the ocean.

Experience amazing effects on frozen giant planets

For many years, planetary scientists suspected that diamonds formed in the icy interior of ice giants such as Neptune and Uranus.

If these diamonds form, they will “rain” inside these icy realms.

To see if this process was possible, the researchers took a sheet of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic – the type found in plastic bottles – and used a high-powered optical laser found in the Extrem Conditions Material Instrument at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (SLAC) a Linac Coherent light source to heat the plastic to About 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit (6000 degrees Celsius).

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This created pressures millions of times greater than the pressure of the Earth’s atmosphere for mere billionths of a second. The pressure of bone-cracking shocked the plastic, causing the carbon atoms in the plastic to rearrange into a crystalline structure, with hydrogen and oxygen drifting through this lattice.

“Using a powerful X-ray laser, we can look inside the sample and create films of the chemical reactions that are taking place there,” Krause said. “We saw very efficient formation of nanodiamonds within the pressed plastic during the time scale of our experiments – just a few nanoseconds.”

The new research shows that this type of diamond formation may be more common than scientists previously thought, raising the possibility that the ice giants have thick layers of diamond around their solid core.

The experiment also strongly suggests that at the high temperatures and pressures found within such icy worlds, a strange state of water occurs, called super-ionic water ice.

This strange form of water allows the protons to move through a network of oxygen atoms. If such super-ionic water exists on ice giants like Uranus and Neptune, Krause said, the movement of protons through this strange type of matter might help create the strange magnetic fields seen on those planets.

Previous calculations indicated that the carbon atoms in the interior of the planets would likely make any superhydrophobic ions forming there very unstable.

But “our experiments now show that carbon and water deteriorate.” [ο ακούσιος διαχωρισμός των ουσιών σε ένα μείγμα] Krause said. “Therefore, there may be sequestered water within the planets, which increases the possibility of the formation of super-ionic water.”

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And it may soon be possible for a spacecraft to visit our icy neighbors to see if it’s actually raining diamonds and exotic waters.

“We hope over the next decade, to launch a new NASA space probe to Uranus, where it has just been identified as a top priority from a decade of research,” Krause said.

The results can also have more commercial applications. Currently, people make nanodiamonds by igniting coal or blasting larger diamonds into pieces with explosives, creating a solid block of diamonds of various sizes. Krause said the new method would be a cleaner way to make diamonds of certain sizes.

Source: Live Science // Robert Leah

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