Even the hardest of materials react to immense pressures. In this image, x-ray imaging reveals how a laser-generated shock wave propagates through a piece of diamond.
The shock wave was created in the three-centimetre piece of diamond, which was just 0.3 millimetres thick, by a high-intensity laser pulse. It provided 12 trillion watts of power over just 0.15 billionths of a second. The wave then zipped through the sample at 45,000 miles per hour.
The researchers, at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, used x-ray imaging capable of taking snapshots of the propagating wave every 50 millionths of a billionth of a second with an image resolution of 500 millionths of a millimetre to capture what happened. In fact the sample was destroyed during each experiment, and the images above are taken from a series of tests. They’re published in Scientific Reports.
The images reveal that the high-pressure shock waves manage to distort the samples dramatically, compressing them by up to 10 per cent as the pass through the sample. It’s hoped that the new insights will allow scientists to understand the structure of diamond better than ever to help in the development of new ultra-strong materials.