You may remember that scene from Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home? Where Scotty provides the data to make 'transparent aluminium... Well it's now real! Sort of!
What is good about this is the step it takes toward the development of Nuclear Fusion on Earth, which, unlike Nuclear Fission, is relatively safe, controlable and very mildly radioactive in comparison.
"For a brief period the sample looks and behaves in every way like a new form of matter. In certain respects, the way it reacts is as though we had changed every aluminium atom into silicon: it’s almost as surprising as finding that you can turn lead into gold with light!" - Professor Wark
Oxford scientists have created a transparent form of aluminium by bombarding the metal with the world’s most powerful soft X-ray laser. 'Transparent aluminium' previously only existed in science fiction, featuring in the movie Star Trek IV, but the real material is an exotic new state of matter with implications for planetary science and nuclear fusion.
In this week’s Nature Physics an international team, led by Oxford University scientists, report that a short pulse from the FLASH laser ‘knocked out’ a core electron from every aluminium atom in a sample without disrupting the metal’s crystalline structure. This turned the aluminium nearly invisible to extreme ultraviolet radiation.
''What we have created is a completely new state of matter nobody has seen before,’ said Professor Justin Wark of Oxford University’s Department of Physics, one of the authors of the paper. ‘Transparent aluminium is just the start. The physical properties of the matter we are creating are relevant to the conditions inside large planets, and we also hope that by studying it we can gain a greater understanding of what is going on during the creation of 'miniature stars' created by high-power laser implosions, which may one day allow the power of nuclear fusion to be harnessed here on Earth.’
Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die
I agree... it sounds... small scale! But the thing to remember is what has effectively happened here is the transformation of matter. It also is a step toward nuclear fusion. Nuclear fusion is the power source the world should be putting all its efforts into developing. It’s very clean, efficient and its pollutants are minimal and controllable compared to nuclear fission. You just need to take a quick look at Wikipedia (and of course back this up elsewhere), to see that waste radioactivity from fusion has the same radioactivity levels as coal dust after 150 years. Compared to waste products from fission which remains a pollutant for 10s of thousands of years. One bath of water could supply a household with all its needs, power wise for 30 years!
I'm far from an expert on anything like this, but when I heard about nuclear fusion, it always interested me. If transparent aluminium is a step toward making a fusion power plant a reality, then fantastic!
This explains the basics of fusion: