A high pressure device may help generating new materials.
Is it one more step towards controlled fusion?

 

Humans have a hard time adapting themselves to high or low pressure, be at highest peaks in the cold Himalayan air or within the dark and silent world of marine depth. The pressure generated by a new machine, called Z, at the Department of Energy’s Sandia National Laboratories, are however not comparable with those encouterred in such environements. Z will be able to deliver pressures increasing from zero to a million atmospheres in a few billionths of a second only. No human could survive this force, which is used to generate temperatures rivaling the sun and explosions resembling the X-ray outbursts of neutron stars.

The Z machine is based on a technique called ICE (for Isentropic Compression Experiments); it will be a valuable tool to test materials over a wide range of stress. Compared with current techniques for characterizing materials, "ICE will cut costs by an order of magnitude," says Sandia project head Clint Hall. The tremendous magnetic field generated by Z’s 20 million incoming amperes grows from 0 to 14.7 million pounds per square inch of pressure. This occurs on a target of a few hundred milligrams in less than 160 nanoseconds.

In the long term, the huge force may help to:

- Create ultrahard matter (in the same way that extreme pressures in Earth’s interior make diamonds from coal);

- Form better computer models to predict the effects of the impacts of hypervelocity micrometeorites on space stations;

- Answer basic physics questions such as whether a liquid, rapidly compressed, will become a solid.

The immediate goal of the technique is to aid DOE’s to maintain - and develop? - nuclear weapons by simulating their maintenance, explosion, and effects without physically testing them.

" Additionally ", says Jim Asay, deputy director of Sandia’s Weapon Science Applications group, " facilities throughout the world interested in developing inertial fusion capabilities [a method of banging atoms together to make their nuclei join, releasing large amounts of energy] should benefit from this technique because it can characterize the equations of state of materials used in target capsules and other portions of such procedures ".

Sandia is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin Company, for the United States Department of Energy. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, CA., Sandia has major research and development responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.

 

Mostly taken from http://www.sandia.gov/media/NewsRel/NR2000/ICE.htm

Picture as authorized from the same address.

 

Yves, CG Ufocom

September 2000