This 200-Trillion Watt Laser Produces Plasma Hotter Than The Sun

Illustration for article titled This 200-Trillion Watt Laser Produces Plasma Hotter Than The Sun

It’s amazing that scientists can recreate natural phenomena in labs experiments, including plasma many times hotter than the center of our own sun. In the middle of the photo above you can see a little star, white hot plasma produced by a 200-trillion watt laser.


The photo shows the Trident Laser at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. And honestly, “hot” is an understatement. The lab explains the experiment:

Invisible infrared light from the 200-trillion watt Trident Laser enters from the bottom to interact with a one-micrometer thick foil target in the center of the photo. The laser pulse produces a plasma — an ionized gas — many times hotter than the center of the sun, which lasts for a trillionth of a second. During this time some electrons from the foil are accelerated to virtually the speed of light, and some ions are accelerated to energies of tens of millions of volts.

In this time-integrated image, one sees many colorful plasmas that result from the collisions of energetic X-rays and particles with nearby surfaces. Various diagnostic devices located around the edge of the image are illuminated by the plasmas. The green light is caused by the second harmonic of the laser, and is produced by a nonlinear process taking place at the laser-plasma interface. Bits of debris from the target are seen as orange streaks of light, some of which ricochet from the surrounding environment, and some of which produce a colorful dance of twisted braids as they spin in flight.


[Los Alamos National Laboratory]

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