Publications Repository - Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf

1 Publication
Formation of diamonds in laser-compressed hydrocarbons at planetary interior conditions
Kraus, D.;
High-energy laser systems can be used to mimic extreme states of matter, as found in the interior of various celestial bodies, in the laboratory. Combining such laser systems with extremely bright X-ray sources, particularly X-ray free electron lasers (XFELs), allows for studying exotic physical processes in real-time. This includes high-pressure phase separation reactions, such as diamond precipitation from liquid hydrocarbons, which has been predicted to happen deep inside Neptune and Uranus, and many other interesting phenomena.

At the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), we obtained experimental results from hydrocarbon samples that were laser-compressed to the extreme pressure and temperature conditions found in the deep interiors of such ‘icy’ giant planets [1]. The extreme brightness of the XFEL source enables unprecedented in situ snapshots of the induced chemical reactions and shows that diamond nucleation is initiated on sub-nanosecond timescales at ~150 GPa and ~5000 K. Combining several X-ray and optical diagnostic methods, we obtain high-quality constraints for theoretical models of the involved physical processes: X-ray diffraction records the formation of solid diamond structures, Small angle X-ray scattering determines the size distribution of the growing nanodiamonds while spectrally resolved X-ray scattering provides an absolute scale for the diffraction pattern giving the absolute amount of the reacting material that undergoes species separation. Optical velocimetry is used to characterize and optimize the laser-driven compression waves and optical reflectometry indicates that the isolated hydrogen produced by the phase separation reaction is in a metallic state. All these diagnostics can be used with single-shot quality in the same experiment and provide unprecedented insights into the nanosecond kinetics of chemical reactions at extreme pressures and temperatures.

Besides underlining the general importance of chemical processes inside giant planets, our results
will inform mass-radius relationships of carbon-bearing exoplanets, provide constraints for their internal layer structure and improve evolutionary models of Uranus and Neptune, where carbon-hydrogen separation could significantly influence the convective heat transport. Finally, our experiments may identify a new method to produce diamond nanoparticles for material science and
industrial applications.

[1] D. Kraus et al., Nature Astronomy 1, 606-611 (2017)
  • Invited lecture (Conferences)
    European XFEL Users Meeting, 22.-25.01.2018, Hamburg, Deutschland

Publ.-Id: 27405 - Permalink