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CNR: Alamanacco della Scienza

Archivio

N. 19 - 23 nov 2011
ISSN 2037-4801

International info   a cura di Cecilia Migali

Tecnologia

The last white spot on Earth      

Scientists will soon be exploring matter at temperatures and pressures so extreme that the conditions can only be produced for microseconds using powerful pulsed lasers. Matter in such states is present in the Earth's liquid iron core, 2500 kilometres beneath the surface, and also in elusive 'warm dense matter' inside large planets like Jupiter. The new X-ray beamline ID24 at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (Esrf) in Grenoble, France, allows a new quality of exploration of this last white spot on our globe: the centre of the Earth.

We know surprisingly little about the interior of the Earth. The pressure at the centre can be calculated accurately from the propagation of earthquake waves; it is about three and a half million times atmospheric pressure. The temperature at the centre of the Earth, however, is unknown, but it is thought to be roughly as hot as the surface of the sun. ID24, recently inaugurated, opens new fields of science, being able to observe like in a time-lapse film sequence many rapid processes, whether laser-heating of iron to 10,000 degrees, charge reactions in new batteries or catalysts cleaning pollutants.
It is the first of eight new beamlines built within the Esrf Upgrade Programme. ID24 extends the existing capabilities at the Esrf in X-ray absorption spectroscopy to sample volumes twenty times smaller and time resolutions one thousand times better than in the past.

Thanks to new technologies employed at ID24, scientists can now study what happens at extreme conditions, for example when materials undergo a fast chemical reaction or at what temperature a mineral will melt in the interior of a planet. A stable, microscopic X-ray beam means they can also be made in two dimensions by scanning across a sample to obtain a map instead of a measurement only at a single point. A powerful infrared spectrometer complements the X-ray detectors for the study of chemical reactions under industrial processing conditions.

"ID24 opens unchartered territories of scientific exploration", says Harald Reichert, Esrf Director of Research. "I wish to congratulate the project team for extraordinary achievements, and I look forward to seeing some extraordinary new science".
Esrf is supported by several European research centres and Cnr participates as main partner.

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Fonte: Claus Habfast, European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (Esrf), tel. +33 666 662 384, email claus.habfast@esrf.fr