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Researchers crush diamond with biggest laser in world
by Brooks Hays
Livermore, Calif. (UPI) Jul 17, 2013


New UV laser capabilities being developed for Army
San Diego (UPI) Jul 17, 2013 - Next-generation ultraviolet laser capabilities are to be developed for military use by Daylight Defense LLC under a U.S. Army contract.

The value of the award was not disclosed, but Daylight Defense said it was granted under the U.S. Army Small Business Innovation Research program.

"We are grateful that the U.S. government has entrusted Daylight to develop a next-generation capability for future airborne military laser systems," said Dr. Timothy Day, chief executive officer of parent company Daylight Solutions. "The development of compact, ruggedized UV laser modules fits well within our product roadmap to bring advanced capabilities to the warfighter."

The U.S. Army is interested in laser sources in the near-UV for applications such as light detection and ranging, or LIDAR, and other applications for helicopters. Application of the technology would also be applicable to other systems for battlefield awareness and trace detection.

Daylight said it has created a line of military laser products using its quantum cascade laser technologies.

Scientists wanted to better understand what conditions are like deep inside giant, carbon-rich planets. To find out, they blasted a diamond with the world's biggest laser.

"The goal of the shots is to try and create planetary core conditions on Earth," explained Ray Smith, a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. "And by that I mean very high pressure and relatively low temperature."

Smith and his research colleagues replicated the conditions at the center of Saturn using the world's biggest laser at the U.S. National Ignition Facility. Scientists directed the giant laser -- actually 176 separate laser beams -- onto a tiny sliver of diamond, compressing the diamond to the density of lead.

Though the recent experiment gives planetary scientists and astrophysicists a better idea of how matter behaves at extreme pressure, they say its not quite analogous to the formation of gas giants.

"Planets form over many millions of years, whereas the reported dynamic ramped compression procedure is over in a flash," study author Chris Pickard, a researcher at the University College London, wrote in an article accompanying the study in the journal Nature.

"It is not clear whether these experiments, despite reaching relevant temperatures and pressures, are able to closely model the largely equilibrated, dense rocks and ices existing within giant planets."

Still, the experiment suggests scientists are at least on the right track.

"The discovery of multiple planets beyond our Solar System, many of which are much larger than Jupiter and Saturn, has left to a dramatic change in our picture of the Universe," Pickard explained. "Understanding the make-up and evolution of these exoplanets requires the development of theoretical models, which depend on the pressure-density equations of state of the most likely planetary materials. Until now, these equations of state have been largely determined by extrapolating from terrestrial data."

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