“with this in mind,” said Dr. Eric A. Bowering, an associate professor of physics at UC Davis and a co-author on the paper. “It’s a very good way to learn about particles that cannot be detected in the real world.”
Dr. Bowering and four colleagues studied the particles using lasers that were made with molten steel that was sandwiched by an extremely thin thin layer called a layer of carbon. One of the lasers used was created in the lab and used a different type of laser than that found in commercial particle accelerator lasers.
When the researchers applied this type of laser to the particle accelerator, that material contained a layer of carbon that was very small and made of less than 0.3 nanometers (nm) thick. The small material also made it easier and quicker to break into smaller particles, which formed a more stable, more predictable particle source. They reasoned that, on Earth, the small carbon might only get smaller in an atmospheric environment, so it would then need to evolve to reach higher temperatures and densities.
“The key for us was the laser used at each point in time,” added Vassily Dushko, a researcher at the U.S. Army Mars Science Laboratory in Tennessee. “When we saw a particle like that, we knew it was going to be much smaller in that very environment (of Mars) than we had expected, so we designed the laser so that it would work in that environment. The process of building and mounting it in a lab was extremely fast.”
The result, published today in Science Translational Physics, is a laser that can generate particles that, under conditions in space and in a space field, can break into small particles.
The first step, Dushko explained, lies in applying the new techniques to build the laser with the laser at various points in time and with the laser at temperatures that can exceed 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
By measuring these particles together, the researchers set their own theoretical goal of the particle accelerator to be 3,000 times stronger than when they first designed it.
A second step to build the laser was to use the same technology that is used on commercial laser beams, using materials such as gold and semiconductors to make them.
To build the laser, the researchers made it happen by placing an extremely thin layer of aluminum foil around a small, 3.5- nanometer thick metallic rod called a carbon nanotube.