Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Transparent Aluminum - in Extreme Ultraviolet - For a Few Femtoseconds

Scientists Claim New State of Matter Created" (July 28, 2009)

"Scientists claim to have created a form of aluminum that's nearly transparent to extreme ultraviolet radiation and which is a new state of matter.

"It's an idea straight out of science fiction, featured in the movie 'Star Trek IV.'

"The work is detailed in the journal Nature Physics.

"The normal states of matter are solid, liquid and gas, and a fourth state, called plasma, is a superheated gas considered more exotic. Other experiments have created strange states of matter for brief periods. This one, too, existed only briefly...."

The exotic aluminum is created by zapping aluminum with a very powerful X-ray laser, knocking electrons out of the atoms. The odd aluminum goes back to normal in somewhere around 40 femtoseconds, but that seems to be long enough to for it to be studied.

Researchers say they hope to get a better idea of what goes on inside very large planets with tools like this: and, maybe, work out a way to make a practical fusion reactor.

That last is something that's been "about fifty years ahead" for the last three decades or so, so I'm not holding my breath.

On the other hand, physicists keep coming up with new ways to affect matter and energy: and it would be a bit odd if they didn't discover a new principle now and again.

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