From Argonne Lab: “Creating the Heart of a Planet in the Heart of a Gem” 

OCTOBER 27, 2011
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“Although materials scientists have theorized for years that a form of super-dense aluminum exists under the extreme pressures found inside a planet’s core, no one had ever actually seen it.

Until now, that is.

Using a new table-top laser device at Shizuoka University in Japan that penetrates crystals and sets off micro-explosions inside them, an international team of researchers blasted tiny bits of sapphire creating powerful shock waves that compressed the surrounding material. Under these extreme conditions—terapascals of pressure and temperatures of 100,000 Kelvin—warm dense matter forms, the state of matter between a solid and a plasma.

The researchers, from Stanford University, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, The Australian National University, Shizuoka University, Argonne National Laboratory, the Carnegie Institution of Washington, and Swinburne University of Technology then examined the interior of the sapphire, utilizing a beam of x-ray light from the High Pressure Collaborative Access Team (HP-CAT) beamline 16-BM-D at the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science’s Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory, and found a novel form of aluminum.

Because sapphire is a form of aluminum oxide, or alumina, the researchers expected to find evidence of various phases of high-pressure alumina inside the gem. Instead, they observed minuscule amounts of a surprisingly stable, highly-compressed form of elemental aluminum called body-centered cubic aluminum.”

A sapphire crystal with a laser-carved cavity. Image by Arturas Vailionis.

See the full article here.

Argonne Lab is a U.S. Department of Energy laboratory managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC