Record-high magnetic fields in lab may allow re-creations of extreme astrophysical phenomena

November 07, 2002

Using a new technique, researchers from Imperial College, London, and the Rutherford Appleton lab in the UK have created super-strong magnetic fields that are hundreds of times more intense than any previous magnetic field created in an Earth laboratory and up to a billion times stronger than our planet's natural magnetic field. Such intense magnetic fields may soon enable researchers to recreate extreme astrophysical conditions, such as the atmospheres of neutron stars and white dwarfs, in their very own laboratories.

At the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory near Oxford in the UK, researchers at the VULCAN facility aimed intense laser pulses, lasting only picoseconds (trillionths of a second), at a dense plasma. The resulting magnetic fields in the plasma were on the order of 400 MegaGauss. To determine the magnitude of the fields, the researchers made polarization measurements of high-frequency light emitted during the experiment. Recent measurements to be presented at the APS/DPP conference suggest that the peak magnetic field in the densest region of the plasma approaches 1 GigaGauss. Due to technological advances peak laser intensities are likely to increase still further and consequently even higher magnetic fields may soon be possible, making it possible to put models of extreme astrophysical conditions to the test.
-end-
Karl Krushelnick, Imperial College of Science,Technology,and Medicine,
University of London, 011 44 (0) 20 7594 7635, kmkr@ic.ac.uk

Extended summary of work and images: http://www.aps.org/meet/DPP02/baps/press/krushelnick.pdf

[CP1.125] Temporal and Spatial measurements of mega Gauss magnetic fields in Over dense and Under dense solid plasma
Abstract: http://www.aps.org/meet/DPP02/baps/abs/S400125.html

American Physical Society

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