Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Scientists film shock waves in diamond


X-ray laser opens up new avenues of research in material science

Researchers have used ultra-short pulses of X-rays to film shock waves in diamonds. The study headed by DESY scientists opens up new possibilities for studying the properties of materials. Thanks to the extremely bright and short X-ray flashes, the researchers were able to follow the rapid, dynamic changes taking place in the shock wave with a high spatial as well as a high temporal resolution.

The shock wave races through the diamond. The ripples on the left are caused by the sample mounting.

Credit: Andreas Schropp/DESY

The team around DESY physicist Prof. Christian Schroer is presenting its results in the journal Scientific Reports. "With our experiment we are venturing into new scientific terrain," says the first author of the scientific paper, Dr. Andreas Schropp of DESY. "We have managed for the first time to use X-ray imaging to quantitatively determine the local properties and the dynamic changes of matter under extreme conditions."

For their pilot study, the scientists analysed diamond samples with the world's most powerful X-ray laser, the Linac Coherent Light Source LCLS at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in the U.S. The researchers fixed a three centimetre long diamond strip, just 0.3 millimetre thick, in a specimen holder and triggered a shock wave with a brief flash from a powerful infrared laser that hit the narrow edge of the diamond; this pulse lasted 0.15 billionths of a second (150 picoseconds) and reached a power level of up to 12 trillion watts (12 terawatts) per square centimetre. The resulting shock wave shot through the diamond at about 72,000 kilometres per hour.

"In order to take snapshots of such rapid processes, you need to use extremely short exposure times," explains Schropp. The X-ray pulses produced by the LCLS last just 50 millionths of a billionth of a second (50 femtoseconds), allowing them to capture even the fastest movements. However, as the diamond sample was destroyed with every shot, the scientists had to repeat the experiment with identical specimens for each image, whereby each picture was taken a little later to show the shock wave at a slightly later time. Finally, they assembled these still images to create a film, as in a "flip book".

Using this film, the scientists were able to determine quantitatively the change in density due to the shock wave. The X-ray microscope specifically developed for this purpose, permits details of the sample down to 500 millionths of a millimetre (500 nanometres) to be resolved.

Together with the speed of sound measured, this allows the state of the diamond to be determined under conditions of extreme pressure. The analysis shows that the intense shock wave compresses the diamond - one of the hardest materials in the world - locally by almost ten percent.

This pilot study offers new insights into the structure of diamonds. "In view of the remarkable physical properties of diamond it continues to be important both scientifically and technologically," says Prof. Jerome Hastings of SLAC.

"We have for the first time directly imaged shock waves in diamond using X-rays, and this opens up new perspectives on the dynamic behaviour of diamond under high pressure." Material scientists are particularly interested in the complex behaviour behind the initial shock front, which can already be seen in these first images.

The scientists hope that by refining X-ray lasers and optimising the detector, the spatial resolution can be further improved to less than 100 nanometres, for instance also at the superconducting X-ray laser European XFEL that is currently being built from the DESY campus in Hamburg to the neighbouring town of Schenefeld.

Thanks to the penetrating properties of X-rays, this technique can be applied to virtually any solid material, such as iron or aluminium. "The method is important for a series of applications in material science and for describing the physical processes occurring inside planets," summarises Schroer.

Apart from DESY and SLAC, the Technical University of Dresden, the University of Oxford in the UK, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in the U.S. were also involved in the research.


Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY is the leading German accelerator centre and one of the leading in the world. DESY is a member of the Helmholtz Association and receives its funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) (90 per cent) and the German federal states of Hamburg and Brandenburg (10 per cent). At its locations in Hamburg and Zeuthen near Berlin, DESY develops, builds and operates large particle accelerators, and uses them to investigate the structure of matter. DESY's combination of photon science and particle physics is unique in Europe.


Imaging Shock Waves in Diamond with Both High Temporal and Spatial Resolution at an XFEL; Andreas Schropp, Robert Hoppe, Vivienne Meier, Jens Patommel, Frank Seiboth, Yuan Ping, Damien G. Hicks, Martha A. Beckwith, Gilbert W. Collins, Andrew Higginbotham, Justin S. Wark, Hae Ja Lee, Bob Nagler, Eric C. Galtier, Brice Arnold, Ulf Zastrau, Jerome B. Hastings & Christian G. Schroer; Scientific Reports, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/srep11089

Media Contact

Thomas Zoufal


Thomas Zoufal | EurekAlert!

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht Custom sequences for polymers using visible light
22.03.2018 | Tokyo Metropolitan University

nachricht The search for dark matter widens
21.03.2018 | American Institute of Physics

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Modular safety concept increases flexibility in plant conversion

22.03.2018 | Trade Fair News

New interactive map shows climate change everywhere in world

22.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

New technologies and computing power to help strengthen population data

22.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>