What processes take place on the interior of planets like Neptune and Uranus? Researchers from the College of Rostock, the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR), and the École Polytechnique in France came up with a brand-new experiment in order to answer this question.
They examined the results of directing a laser onto a thin sheet of plain PET plastic by using powerful laser flashes. This allowed them to see what happened. As a consequence of this, the researchers were able to provide evidence in support of their prior hypothesis, which said that diamonds really do fall from the sky within the ice giants located on the outskirts of our solar system.
Another advantage of this process was that it offered the opportunity to develop a novel method for the production of nanodiamonds, which are essential for applications comparable to ultrasensitive quantum sensors. This is one of the many reasons why this course of action was beneficial.
The research conducted by the researchers was published in Science Advances (10.1126/sciadv.abo0617).
Extreme conditions can be found inside of frozen huge planets like Neptune and Uranus. The pressure inside of these planets is hundreds of thousands of times more than it is on Earth, and the temperature inside of these planets can reach several thousand degrees Celsius.
Research has shown a new way to make diamonds right here on Earth by using plastic, which is comparable to the planet Neptune.
However, states similar to these can be briefly replicated in the laboratory by using intense laser flashes to hit a pattern of a material that resembles film, heating it to 6,000 degrees Celsius in the space of a millisecond, and creating a shock wave that compresses the material to 1,000,000 times the pressure of air for a couple of nanoseconds. This process can be repeated as many times as necessary to achieve the desired results.
Dominik Kraus, a physicist at HZDR and a professor at the College of Rostock, notes that “we used hydrocarbon pictures for this kind of research” up until this point in time.
“And what we discovered was that this extreme stress led to the production of nanodiamonds,” which are very little diamonds.
However, due to the fact that ice giants also contain significant quantities of oxygen, in addition to carbon and hydrogen, it was only possible to replicate the interior of planets using these films in a limited capacity.
The crew was looking for appropriate materials for a movie when they came across PET, which is the resin that is used to produce most flexible bottles. They decided to use it.
According to Kraus, PET has exceptional carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen stability, which allows it to simulate the processes that take place on ice planets. The research was carried out at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California. This facility is home to the Linac Coherent Light Supply (LCLS), a powerful X-ray laser that is driven by an accelerator.
They were able to determine what happens to PET film when it is exposed to powerful laser flashes by using two different kinds of measurements. This allowed them to determine what happens. The rate of the diamonds’ growth as well as their dimensions were determined through the use of X-ray diffraction and small-angle scattering respectively.
Dominik Kraus provides a concise summary of the findings, stating, “The effect of the oxygen was to speed up the splitting of the carbon and hydrogen, and this encouraged the production of nanodiamonds.” It made the process of carbon atoms bonding together and forming diamonds more easier. This provides additional support for the theory that diamonds physically rain down from the heavens inside of ice giants. The findings appear to be applicable to a significant number of other planets in our galaxy, in addition to Uranus and Neptune. It is now apparent that ice giant planets, which were once thought to be unusual, are apparently the most widespread type of planet found outside of our solar system.
The team also came across an extra piece of information, which was a clue: when the diamonds were combined with water, they needed to emerge in an unusual manner. According to Kraus, “so-called superionic water could have been fabricated.” [Citation needed] The nuclei of hydrogen atoms are free to move about in relation to the oxygen atoms that make up the crystal lattice. Due to the presence of electrically charged nuclei, superionic water is capable of carrying an electrical current. This property adds to the magnetic order maintained by the ice giants.
However, the experiments carried out by the research team have not yet made it possible for them to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt the presence of superionic water within the mixture including diamonds. This is predicted to take place at the European XFEL in Hamburg, which is the most powerful X-ray laser on the world, and will be carried out in close collaboration with the College of Rostock.
Experiments of this kind are ideally suited for the ideal environment that is provided by the global consumer consortium HIBEF, which is headed up by HZDR there.
Manufacturing facility for nanodiamonds
In addition to this quite fundamental information, the new experiment opens the door to a technical application. This application is the tailored fabrication of nanometer-sized diamonds, which are already utilized in abrasives and polishing agents.
In the not too distant future, they are going to be utilized as very effective response accelerators for the purpose of separating CO2 and functioning as incredibly sensitive quantum sensors. Kraus claims that up until this point, “the primary method of production for diamonds of this type has been the detonation of explosives.”
In the not too distant future, with the assistance of laser flashes, they might be formed in a manner that is substantially more orderly.
The view from the scientific community A high-powered laser is used to illuminate a PET video at intervals of ten-thousandths of a second, resulting in a total of one thousand flashes per second.
The subsequent nanodiamonds are seen flying out of the movie and landing in a collection receptacle that is filled with water. After being slowed down in that location, they will subsequently be sifted and have useful components taken from them.
According to Dominik Kraus, the key advantage that this technology has over explosive manufacture is that “the nanodiamonds might conceivably be specifically cut in relation to size and even doped with other atoms.”
Because of the X-ray laser, we now have a laboratory tool that can precisely monitor the development of the diamonds.
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