Experiment with plasmas sheds light on what happens to matter around black holes

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Washington, September 3 (ANI): In an experiment, a scientist is using 100,000-degree heat to study ultra-high temperature and non-equilibrium plasmas to mimic what happens to matter in accretion disks around black holes.

The scientist in question is University of Nevada, Reno researcher and faculty member Roberto Mancini.

He plans to explore what happens to matter when it is subjected to extreme conditions of temperature and radiation - similar to what happens to many astrophysical objects in the universe.

The research will enable astrophysicists to better understand what happens around black holes and in active galactic nuclei.

Scientists will also better understand the application of high-energy density plasmas to energy production, such as controlled nuclear fusion (produced in the laboratory), and production of X-ray sources for a variety of applications.

"Using theories and tools created here at the University to design and analyze experiments, we then go to the only national facility that has the capacity to deliver the high-intensity flux of X-rays required to perform and measure these experiments," Mancini said.

The pulsed-power machine at the Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico is the most powerful source of X-rays on earth, according to Mancini.

"We subject a very small cell - a 1-inch by half-inch cube - filled with a gas, such as neon, to this tremendous, short burst of X-ray energy," he said.

"It's about 10 nanoseconds of the most intense power on earth - creating conditions of hundreds of thousands of degrees and millions of atmospheres in pressure - in the form of X-rays," he added.

The researchers can then compare their extensive computer modeling and calculations with the measurements so they can study and explain the extreme state of matter (plasma) created during those 10 nanoseconds, which mimics the majority of matter found throughout the universe.

"We are using a unique imaging X-ray spectrometer to measure the intensity distribution of radiation as a function of wavelength, which tells us what happens with the plasma," Mancini said.

He said that the plasma reaches extreme conditions, very unlike the low-energy plasma found in a neon light or a plasma television screen, with light 1,000 times more energetic than visible light, temperature as high as 100,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and ionization mainly driven by the action of the X-ray flux going through the plasma. (ANI)

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