Researchers simulate icy conditions of planets to confirm rain of diamonds inside

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An international team of researchers conducted a novel experiment to delve what goes inside planets like Uranus and Neptune. The experiment involved firing a laser at a thin film of simple PET plastic, and examining the reaction of using intensive laser flashes.

One finding of the experiment enabled researchers, to confirm the earlier thesis of deluge of diamonds inside the ice giants at the periphery of the solar system. And another result was, the method could enable a new approach for producing nanodiamonds.

The group described its findings in Science Advances.

In fact, interior conditions in the icy planets such as Neptune and Uranus are extreme: temperatures drop several thousand degree Celsius, and the pressure is million times higher than in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Importantly, the conditions of the planets can be simulated briefly in the lab. For simulation, strong laser flashes strike a film-like material sample, temperature heated up to 6,000 degree Celsius for a fraction of a second, and shock wave created that compresses the material for a nanoseconds to a million times the atmospheric pressure.

“So far, hydrocarbon films were used for these kind of experiments,” explained a physicist from the team. And, the simulation led to the finding that extreme pressure produced minuscule diamonds, known as nanodiamonds.

However, using these films, only partial simulation of interior of planets was possible. This is because icy planets not only contain hydrogen and carbon but large quantities of oxygen. The search for suitable film material, led to stumble on the everyday substance, PET. The material has a good balance between oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon to simulate the activity of ice planets.

Edward Turner

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