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Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Mar 9, 2006 0:46:05 GMT -6
Sandias Z Machine Exceeds Two Billion Degrees Kelvin
Albuquerque NM (SPX) Mar 09, 2006 Sandia's Z machine has produced plasmas that exceed temperatures of 2 billion degrees Kelvin -- hotter than the interiors of stars. The unexpectedly hot output, if its cause were understood and harnessed, could eventually mean that smaller, less costly nuclear fusion plants would produce the same amount of energy as larger plants.
The phenomena also may explain how astrophysical entities like solar flares maintain their extreme temperatures.
The very high radiation output also creates new experimental environments to help validate computer codes responsible for maintaining a reliable nuclear weapons stockpile safely and securely -- the principle mission of the Z facility.
"At first, we were disbelieving," says Sandia project lead Chris Deeney. "We repeated the experiment many times to make sure we had a true result and not an 'Ooops'!"
The results, recorded by spectrometers and confirmed by computer models created by John Apruzese and colleagues at Naval Research Laboratory, have held up over 14 months of additional tests.
A description of the achievement, as well as a possible explanation by Sandia consultant Malcolm Haines, well-known for his work in Z pinches at the Imperial College in London, appeared in the Feb. 24 Physical Review Letters.
Sandia is a National Nuclear Security Administration laboratory.