Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

'Iron Sun' Is Not a Rock Band, but a Key to How Stars Transmit Energy

08.01.2015

Working at temperatures matching the interior of the sun, researchers at Sandia National Laboratories’ Z machine have been able to determine experimentally, for the first time, iron’s role in inhibiting energy transmission from the center of the sun to near the edge of its radiative band — the section of the solar interior between the sun’s core and outer convection zone.

Because that role is much greater than formerly surmised, the new, experimentally derived amount of iron’s opacity — essentially, its capacity for hindering the transport of radiative energy originating in nuclear fusion reactions deep in the sun’s interior — helps close a theoretical gap in the Standard Solar Model, widely used by astrophysicists as a foundation to model the behavior of stars.


THE SUN NEVER LOOKED SO CLOSE Physicist Jim Bailey of Sandia National Laboratories observes a wire array that will heat foam to roughly 4 million degrees until it emits a burst of X-rays that heats a foil target to the interior conditions of the sun. (Photo by Randy Montoya) Click on the thumbnail for a high-resolution image.

“Our data, when inserted into the theoretical model, bring its predictions more closely into alignment with physical observations,” said Sandia lead investigator Jim Bailey. His team’s work appeared Jan. 1 in the journal Nature.

The gap between the model and observations appeared in 2000 when analysis of spectra emerging from the sun forced scientists to lower their estimates of energy-absorbing elements such as oxygen, nitrogen and carbon by 30 to 50 percent.

The decreased abundances meant that the model then predicted that energy would arrive at the sun’s radiative edge more readily than before. This created a discrepancy between the star’s theoretical structure and its measured structure, which is based on variations in temperatures and densities at different locations.

To make the model once again agree with observations, scientists needed a way to balance the decreased resistance to radiation transport caused by the lowered amounts of the elements.

Bailey’s experimental group, including Taisuke Nagayama, Guillaume Loisel and Greg Rochau, in painstaking experiments spanning a 10-year period, discovered that the widely used astrophysical estimate of the wavelength-dependent opacity of iron should be increased between 30 to 400 percent. That difference does not represent a large uncertainty but rather how much iron’s opacity varies with the wavelength of the radiation.

“This represents roughly half the change in the mean opacity needed to resolve the solar problem, even though iron is only one of many elements that contribute,” the authors write in their paper.

Getting accurate data has been difficult, as “the inside of a star is one of the most mysterious places in the universe,” Bailey said. “It’s too opaque for distant instruments to see inside and analyze reactions within it, and too hot to send a probe into it. It has also been too difficult to run tests under appropriate conditions in a laboratory. So the physics that describes how atoms, embedded in solar plasma, absorb radiation, has never been experimentally tested. Yet that process dominates the way energy generated by nuclear reactions in the sun’s interior is transported to the outside.

“Fortunately, in our Z experiments, we can create temperature and density conditions nearly the same as the region inside the sun that affects the discrepancy the most — the edge of the zone where radiative energy transport dominates — in a sample that’s big enough, lasts long enough, and is uniform enough to test. We used that new capability to measure the opacity of iron, one of a few elements that plays the most important part in radiative energy transfer.”

Iron is important because, of all the elements abundant in the sun, it maintains the highest number of bound electrons essential in radiative energy transfer, and thus has a large effect on the outcome of solar models.

Still, the upward revision of opacities as a solution is bound to be controversial.
“No matter what we do, we can’t make measurements at all the different conditions we need to know,” said Nagayama. “There are 20 elements present, and a large range of temperatures and densities. We study iron because its complex electronic structure is a challenge to represent in opacity theories. And it is important in solar physics. The sun is a test bed to model other stars. Without experimental tests, we don’t know if these models are accurate. To the extent we fail to understand the sun, then the workings of other stars are subject to some uncertainty.”

Sandia’s Z machine creates the temperature of the sun’s interior — about 2.1 million degrees —in a target about the size of a grain of sand. From that small sample, Bailey could do what theorists cannot: hold in his hand tangible evidence for the way iron atoms behave inside stars.

The target design for recent experiments involved intermingled iron and magnesium, tamped by plastic and beryllium layers on both sides. Radiation streaming through the sample heats up the iron and magnesium, which expand. The plastic restrains the expansion to keep it more uniform for opacity measurements. Magnesium provides information about corresponding density and temperature.

The work was sponsored by the National Nuclear Security Administration and the DOE Office of Science.

Sandia National Laboratories is a multi-program laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corp., for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies and economic competitiveness.

Sandia news media contact: Neal Singer, nsinger@sandia.gov, (505) 845-7078

Neal Singer | newswise
Further information:
http://www.sandia.gov

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms
17.02.2017 | Universität Konstanz

nachricht New functional principle to generate the „third harmonic“
16.02.2017 | Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V.

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Switched-on DNA

20.02.2017 | Materials Sciences

Second cause of hidden hearing loss identified

20.02.2017 | Health and Medicine

Prospect for more effective treatment of nerve pain

20.02.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>