New form of matter created in lab – transparent aluminum


News of the publication in Nature of new technique for bombarding crystalline metals, changing the electronic structure and fundamentally changing the resultant materials ability to interact with electro-magnetic 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.’

The discovery was made possible with the development of a new source of radiation that is ten billion times brighter than any synchrotron in the world (such as the UK’s Diamond Light Source). The FLASH laser, based in Hamburg, Germany, produces extremely brief pulses of soft X-ray light, each of which is more powerful than the output of a power plant that provides electricity to a whole city.


Professor Wark added: ‘What is particularly remarkable about our experiment is that we have turned ordinary aluminium into this exotic new material in a single step by using this very powerful laser. 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!’”

Read the full article here.

Pretty amazing stuff actually. Perhaps the folks on Star Trek weren’t being so far-fetched when they first came up with the idea of see-through metals.

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1 Comment

  1. That’s a little overwrought. “New state of matter”? It still seems to be a solid. “Transparent”? — to very energetic UV light. Not transparent to visible light. I think we still have a way to go before we’re ready to cast the windshield of the Enterprise in transparent aluminum.

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