In a paper published in the June 27 issue of Nature Physics, University of lllinois chemistry professor Kenneth S. Suslick and former student David Flannigan, now at the California Institute of Technology, experimentally determine the plasma electron density, temperature and extent of ionization.
Suslick and Flannigan first observed super-bright sonoluminescence in 2005 by sending ultrasound waves through sulfuric acid solutions to create bubbles.
“The energies of the populated atomic levels suggested a plasma, but at that time there was no estimate of the density of the plasma, a crucial parameter to understanding the conditions created at the core of the collapsing bubble,” said Suslick, the Marvin T. Schmidt Professor of Chemistry and a professor of materials science and engineering.
The new report uses the same setup, but now with a detailed analysis of the shape of the observed spectrum, which provides information on the conditions of the region around the atoms inside the bubble as it collapses.
“The temperature can be several times that of the surface of the sun and the pressure greater than that at the bottom of the deepest ocean trench,” Suslick said.
“What’s more, we were able to determine how these properties are affected by the ferocity with which the bubble collapses, and we found that the plasma conditions generated may indeed be extreme.”
“It is evident from these results that the upper bounds of the conditions generated during bubble implosion have yet to be established,” Suslick said. “The observable physical conditions suggest the limits of energy focusing during the bubble-forming and imploding process may approach conditions achievable only by much more expensive means.”
Suslick also is affiliated with the Beckman Institute of Advanced Science and Technology at Illinois.
The National Science Foundation supported this work.
Liz Ahlberg | University of Illinois
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