Scientists Create ‘Diamond Rain’


Scientists Create ‘Diamond Rain’

Researchers study the exotic precipitation at x-ray laser

In cooperation with teams at the TU Darmstadt and in the USA, scientists at the Helmholtz Centre Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have been able to confirm that “diamond precipitation” develops inside the ice giants of our solar system.

Ein internationales Forscherteam konnte zeigen, dass sich im Inneren riesiger Eisplaneten, wie Neptun, Verbindungen aus Kohlenwasserstoff auftrennen. Der Kohlenstoff verwandelt sich dabei in einen „Diamantregen“. Grafik: Greg Stewart / SLAC
Researchers were able to demonstrate that hydrocarbon compounds split into carbon and hydrogen inside ice giants such as Neptune. The carbon turns into a “diamond shower”. Illustration: Greg Stewart / SLAC

Using ultra-strength X-ray lasers and other facilities of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) in California, they simulated conditions like those inside the cosmic giants. This enabled the researchers to observe, for the first time, the splitting of hydrocarbon and the conversion of carbon into diamonds. Their findings have been published in the journal “Nature Astronomy”(DOI: 10.1038/s41550-017-0219).

The recent result of the team around Dr. Dominik Kraus (HZDR) is one further highlight of the research that physicists of the TU Darmstadt have started many years ago closely collaborating with international partners, says Markus Roth, Professor at TU Darmstadt (Institute for Nuclear Physics). The use of the X-ray laser at the Stanford Linear Coherent Light Source (LCLS) allowed for the investigation of planetary core conditions on an atomic scale. The experiments lead by Dr. Kraus are the culmination of efforts that started with the PhD thesis of Alexander Pelka (now at FEL in Hamburg) on the generation of liquid carbon (experiments at the VULCAN Laser, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory) and with the PhD thesis of Dominik Kraus at TU Darmstadt. In his thesis he has looked into phase transitions of carbon at Megabar pressures using intense laser and x-ray radiation.

“The team of scientists and students of the TU Darmstadt is proud to be a long term partner of this successful collaboration”, says Professor Roth. Next year the University will be adding a PhD student to the LCLS in Stanford to continue our research. In the future the Darmstadt scientists will also use the XFEL in Hamburg as well as the upcoming Extreme LIGHT Infrastructure (ELI) laser systems in Europe and the Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research in Europe (FAIR) in Darmstadt to explore the compositions of distant worlds.

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