With laser, scientists create plasma colder than outer space

Plasma is a type of gas with property other than the gaseous state we are used to. It is like a megadense cloud with free ions and electrons - it would be the fourth state of matter along the solid, gaseous liquid. It is usually found in space at very high temperatures, such as solar surface plasma that can reach up to 6, 000 degrees Celsius.

So you deduce that to study the plasmas would require a kind of giant oven, right? Wrong! Scientists often cool the plasma to analyze its properties. Recently, researchers at Rice University in Houston, Texas, managed to push the boundaries even further and bombarded laser-cooled plasmas to achieve a temperature up to 50 times colder than outer space!

This type of experiment helps to understand the behavior of plasma in even more extreme environments than the solar surface, such as the giant gas giant Jupiter's core or the center of an ultra-dense white dwarf star.

Solar surface can reach 6, 000 degrees Celsius

Advance to Physics

To get to the analytical material, scientists vaporize the strontium metal, which was conducted to bombard laser beams to cool. Then another laser was responsible for ionizing the vapor, creating a plasma of strontium ions and free electrons. Madness, no?

Only it doesn't stop there. Soon after, the plasma begins to expand rapidly, and that's when the magic comes in, with a new laser jet that causes the substance to reach -273 degrees Celsius, which is 50 times colder than the space vacuum!

Since it is not possible to recreate ultra-hot plasmas like Jupiter's nucleus here on Earth, scientists have chosen to take the opposite extreme. In this way, it is possible to understand how ions and electrons work under such particular conditions.

Doctoral student Tom Langin works on plasma cooling