The Z Machine Generates Pressures so Intense That It Can Melt Diamonds

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Diamond is one of the toughest, naturally occurring materials found on Earth. Now, the Z machine at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, can melt them using pressure, electromagnetic pulses and enough current to light 100 million light bulbs.

The interior of the Z machine is 33 meters wide, and it was designed to research nuclear fusion, not to melt diamonds. It can also explore the behavior of materials at high temperatures and pressures, as well as act as a source of intense X-rays.

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To begin, current is fired at hundreds of tiny tungsten wires, vaporizing them to form plasma, which in turn produces a magnetic field that forces the particles to line up at the center of the machine. They point out the horizontal plane of its surface, along the z-axis. This arrangement will cause the particles to collide, producing very powerful X-rays.

The magnetic field can be harnessed to accelerate metal plates and crush materials. Experimentally, the machine has been able to apply over 5 million atmospheres to squeeze diamond into a liquid puddle.

The photo taken above shows lightning that sparks outside of the metal protrusions when the current is switched on. They only happen in an instant when the machine starts firing. The huge electromagnetic pulse would kill anyone trying to observe the firing of the accelerator.

[via New Scientist]

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