Gif from video by SLAC

The poor water droplets never stood a chance. Researchers at the SLAC National Accelerator Lab have aimed their insanely powerful X-ray laser at these tiny spheres of H20, and in the process created these stunning videos.

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It may seem like an odd thing for a world-renowned science lab to do: Why bother? Well, as Claudiu Stan, from Stanford, explains in a press release, streams of water are often used to deliver samples into the path of laser beams during experiments. Better than using your fingers, I guess.

That means that understanding what happens to the water itself is pretty important too, but until now the team has struggled to image what happens fast enough to understand the dynamics of the interaction between laser and fluid. Now, though, the team has developed an ultrafast optical laser system that works a bit like a strobe light, allowing them to acquire clear microscope images at a higher frame rate than before.

Stan explains how useful the new results, published in Nature Physics, will prove:

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“Understanding the dynamics of these explosions will allow us to avoid their unwanted effects on samples. It could also help us find new ways of using explosions caused by X-rays to trigger changes in samples and study matter under extreme conditions. These studies could help us better understand a wide range of phenomena in X-ray science and other applications.”

And, of course, the videos look pretty cool, too.

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[Nature Physics via SLAC via Engadget]