Physics

Black Hole Plasma Conditions Created on Earth – Laser Briefly Uses 1,000 Times the Electric Consumption of the Entire Globe

LFEX Laser Magnetic Reconnection

Magnetic reconnection is generated by the irradiation of the LFEX laser into the micro-coil. The particle outflow accelerated by the magnetic reconnection is evaluated using several detectors. As an example of the results, proton outflows with symmetric distributions were observed. Credit: Osaka University

Scientists at Osaka University use extremely intense laser pulses to create magnetized-plasma conditions comparable to those surrounding a black hole, study that may help explain the still mysterious X-rays that can be emitted from some celestial bodies.

One of the world’s largest petawatt laser facility, LFEX, located in the Institute of Laser Engineering at Osaka University. Credit: Osaka University

Laser Engineering at Osaka University have successfully used short, but extremely powerful laser blasts to generate magnetic field reconnection inside a plasma. This work may lead to a more complete theory of X-ray emission from astronomical objects like black holes.

In addition to being subjected to extreme gravitational forces, matter being devoured by a black hole can be also be pummeled by intense heat and magnetic fields. Plasmas, a fourth state of matter hotter than solids, liquids, or gasses, are made of electrically charged protons and electrons that have too much energy to form neutral atoms. Instead, they bounce frantically in response to magnetic fields. Within a plasma, magnetic reconnection is a process in which twisted magnetic field lines suddenly “snap” and cancel each other, resulting in the rapid conversion of magnetic energy into particle kinetic energy. In stars, including our sun, reconnection is responsible for much of the coronal activity, such as solar flares. Owing to the strong acceleration, the charged particles in the black hole’s accretion disk emit their own light, usually in the X-ray region of the spectrum.

To better understand the process that gives rise to the observed X-rays coming from black holes, scientists at Osaka University used intense laser pulses to create similarly extreme conditions on the lab. “We were able to study the high-energy acceleration of electrons and protons as the result of relativistic magnetic reconnection,” Senior author Shinsuke Fujioka says. “For example, the origin of emission from the famous black hole Cygnus X-1, can be better understood.”

The magnetic field generated inside the micro-coil (left), and the magnetic field lines corresponding to magnetic reconnection (right) are shown. The geometry of the field lines changed significantly during (upper) and after (lower) reconnection. The peak value of the magnetic field was measured to be 2,100 T in our experiment. Credit: Osaka University

This level of light intensity is not easily obtained, however. For a brief instant, the laser required two petawatts of power, equivalent to one thousand times the electric consumption of the entire globe. With the LFEX laser, the team was able to achieve peak magnetic fields with a mind-boggling 2,000 telsas. For comparison, the magnetic fields generated by an MRI machine to produce diagnostic images are typically around 3 teslas, and Earth’s magnetic field is a paltry 0.00005 teslas. The particles of the plasma become accelerated to such an extreme degree that relativistic effects needed to be considered.

“Previously, relativistic magnetic reconnection could only be studied via numerical simulation on a supercomputer. Now, it is an experimental reality in a laboratory with powerful lasers,” first author King Fai Farley Law says. The researchers believe that this project will help elucidate the astrophysical processes that can happen at places in the Universe that contain extreme magnetic fields.

Reference: “Relativistic magnetic reconnection in laser laboratory for testing an emission mechanism of hard-state black hole system” by K. F. F. Law, Y. Abe, A. Morace, Y. Arikawa, S. Sakata, S. Lee, K. Matsuo, H. Morita, Y. Ochiai, C. Liu, A. Yogo, K. Okamoto, D. Golovin, M. Ehret, T. Ozaki, M. Nakai, Y. Sentoku, J. J. Santos, E. d’Humières, Ph. Korneev and S. Fujioka, 3 September 2020, Physical Review E.
DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevE.102.033202

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  • The second to last paragraph says, 'For a brief instant, the laser required two petawatts of power'. What was the exact length of time of that 'brief instant'?

  • They are typically referred to as femtosecond lasers, so their pulse is measured in quadrillionths (10^15) of a second.

  • So the x-rays are not emitted when atoms are ripped apart at the Schwartchild radius? That is how the light is emitted, correct? Would that not produce the x-rays? The magnetic reconnection seems more gravitational in nature. But idk ish.

  • So 1000 times the entire globe
    If my electric bill is say 100.00 and say 5 billion people are the same so 500 billion / month.....1 sec is about $193,000.00
    Some one might want to check my math

  • i'm concerned that the reason humans have not detected other intelligent life stems from the arc of high energy physics research: that the technology to generate a black hole (even microscopic) develops prior to the physics knowledge regarding how that will immediate create a macroscopic black hole, destroying the planet and of course, intelligent life with it.

  • The Safire project is proving the Electric sun model where they are getting energy densities of solar proportions with 65 watt s. So all this is in going in the wrong way

  • Don't worry Jonathan, this article has mislead you. It can't make a blackhole, not microscopic, not for a nanosecond. Secondly you've been mislead about the nature of black holes, very small ones don't eat everything and they evaporate. Microscopic blackholes may be all around space, passing through earth all the time. Matter is mostly empty space so it's no wonder it could slip right between everything. If scientists were as capable as the naysayers would have you believe, we would have a lot fewer mysteries on our hands. Simply put, we're not yet capable of the things you describe and I assure you if the risk would arise other scientists would be as concerned if not more concerned than you are.

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Osaka University

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