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Date: December 01, 2008 09:56PM
Scientists at the Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico have squeezed a
diamond so hard that it turned into a pool of liquid. The herculean grip came
courtesy of huge magnetic fields generated by Sandia's monumetal "Z
The Z Machine is a powerful energy booster designed to approach conditions
required for nuclear fusion by employing traditional energy sources. The machine
uses wall-current electricity to charge giant capacitor banks. The capacitors
then connect via gargantuan cable tentacles to a vacuum chamber, 10 feet in
diameter and 20 feet high.
Sandia said that when the accelerator fires "highly synchronized
laser-triggered switches allow the stored energy to be discharged simultaneously
through the 36 cables, each as big around as a horse and 30 feet long, arranged
like spokes of a wheel and insulated by water. The enormous electrical pulse of
50 trillion watts strikes a complex target about the size of a spool of
thread." The result is pressure equivalent to 10 million times the
atmospheric pressure at the sea level.
(In something of an anticlimax, the scientists did not name the machine Z after,
say, the awesome thunder-throwing god Zeus, but because the current passing
directly into the target travels vertically.)
Sandia reported that most recently scientists at the lab turned the crushing
pressure on a diamond sheet. Powerful magnetic waves generated by the Z were
hitting the diamond target at 20 times the speed of a rifle bullet and turned it
into a liquid. "At the pressures we're interested in, everything is
compressible," shrugged Mark Herrmann, a Sandia researcher.
Sandia said that the object of the experiment was to better understand the
behavior of fuel pelets that may in the future power a fusion reaction. The lab
also said that the "results of the fusion reaction also will be used to
validate physics models in computer simulations used to certify the safety and
reliability of the US nuclear weapons stockpile."