Tech UPTechnologyHeat water to 100,000 ° C in less than...

Heat water to 100,000 ° C in less than a picosecond

Change the water temperature from 0 ° C to 100,000 ° C in 0,000,000,000,000.075 seconds. This is what the team led by physicist Carl Caleman, a researcher at the Center for Free Electron Laser Science (CFEL) and the University of Uppsala (Sweden) has achieved.

They have achieved this by means of a powerful X-ray laser that when heating the water at such a speed (less than a tenth of a picosecond, a measure that is equivalent to a millionth of a millionth of a second) changes it from a liquid state to an exotic state that can allow researchers to unravel some of the hidden secrets of this essential element for life on Earth.

Something else to boil

The scientists used the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) free electron laser from the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and the US Department of Energy. With this device, they fired short, extremely intense laser bursts at jets of water that heated up at incredible speed.

The heating of the water is produced by the movement of the molecules. The more heat, the more movement. The increase in temperature can be achieved by transferring the heat or by directly moving the molecules back and forth with the help of microwaves. In the case of this experiment, things are different. This is how Caleman, who has published the work in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) , explains: “When you heat water, its molecules are agitated with more and more force. Our method is very different. X-rays capture the electrons of water molecules and thus alter the balance of electrical charges. Suddenly, the atoms experience a repulsive force and begin to move violently. “

Thus, in 0.000.000.000.000.075 seconds, the water goes through a phase of transition from liquid to plasma (a state in which electrons have been stolen from atoms), which turns water into a kind of electrically charged gas .

But even if the water goes from liquid to plasma, it still maintains the density of a liquid, since the elapsed time is so little that the atoms have not had time to move enough. What remains in that very brief span of time is an exotic state of matter that cannot occur naturally on Earth. According to one of the authors of the work (Olof Jönsson, from the University of Uppsala), “it has characteristics similar to some plasmas of the Sun and Jupiter, but with a lower density. And it is hotter than the Earth’s core ”.

What is this experiment for?

Although it may surprise us, scientists know that water has abnormal characteristics for a liquid, related to its density and thermal conductivity, among other things. As Jönsson says, “It is a strange liquid. If it weren’t for its peculiarities, there would be no life on Earth ”. Knowing it more thoroughly can provide essential information about the biochemistry that allows us to exist.

In addition, the work has a practical aspect: it will help to refine the capacity of X-rays for the study of atomic structures, an objective with which they have been used often for years.

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