Mega-laser to unravel secrets of exoplanets developed

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London, Mar 1 (ANI): Scientists from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California have developed a "mega-laser" that may soon be used to probe the secrets of extrasolar planets.

The ultraviolet lasers from the device known as National Ignition Facility (NIF) can deliver 500 trillion watts in a 20-nanosecond burst, a power that can open up new scientific possibilities.

Raymond Jeanloz, an astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley will test the device to recreate conditions inside Jupiter and other larger planets, where pressures can be 1000 times as higher as those at the centre of the Earth.

He will then fire the lasers at an iron sample 800 micrometres in diameter.

The intense heat generated will vaporise the metal, producing a gas jet so powerful that it will send a shock wave through the iron, compressing it to over a billion times atmospheric pressure.

He will later measure the metal's crystalline structure and melting point change to study the formation of the hundreds of giant exoplanets that have been discovered in the last two decades.

"The chemistry of these planets is completely unexplored. It's never been accessible in the laboratory before," New Scientist quoted Jeanloz as saying.

Scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California had initially built the device to provide fusion data for nuclear weapons simulations. It may soon be used to unravel the secrets of exoplanets.

Livermore teams are planning to conduct further experiments that could ultimately have an even bigger impact.

They will use the lasers to ignite a fusion reaction in a ball of hydrogen isotopes. This would deliver a big enough jolt of energy to trigger a reaction that burns until the fuel is used up.

The data produced may aid in designing a commercial fusion power plant. (ANI)

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