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Laser Empties Atoms from the Inside out

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Posted March 26, 2013
The Vulcan petawatt laser creating plasma with the glow from the electrons clearly visible. (Credit: Photo courtesy of STFC)

The Vulcan petawatt laser creating plasma with the glow from the electrons clearly visible. (Credit: Photo courtesy of STFC)

An international team of plasma physicists has used one of the world’s most powerful lasers to create highly unusual plasma composed of hollow atoms.

The experimental work led by scientists from the University of York, UK and the Joint Institute for High Temperatures of Russian Academy of Sciences demonstrated that it is possible to remove the two most deeply bound electrons from atoms, emptying the inner most quantum shell and leading to a distinctive plasma state.

The experiment was carried out using the petawatt laser at the Central Laser Facility at the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Rutherford Appleton Laboratory to further understanding of fusion energy generation, which employs plasmas that are hotter than the core of the Sun.

The results are reported in the journalPhysical Review Letters.

A hollow atom occurs when an electron buried in an atom is removed, usually by being hit by another electron, creating a hole while leaving all the other electrons attached. This process creates plasma, a form of ionised gas. An X-ray is released when the hole is filled.

Read more at ScienceDaily.com

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