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Plasma

Taking careful aim with a quadrillion watt laser, researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab claim to have managed to speed up subatomic particles to the highest energies ever recorded for a compact accelerator. By blasting plasma in their tabletop-size laser-plasma accelerator, the scientists assert that they have produced acceleration energy of around of 4.25 giga-electron volts. Acceleration of this magnitude over the short distances involved correlates to an energy rise 1,000 times greater than that of a traditional – and very much larger – particle accelerator. Read More
On the eve of the planned first landing on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced that the unmanned Rosetta orbiter carrying the Philae lander has recorded a "song" emanating from the comet. The electromagnetic melody was detected by the probe’s Rosetta Plasma Consortium, which is a suite of five instruments used to study 67P. Read More
It's no secret that Star Wars is full of scenes that defy the laws of physics. From space battles inspired by WW I and II dogfights to beams of light clashing in lightsaber duels. The laser bolts fired from Han Solo's trusty blaster and Luke's X-wing also play by their own rules, traveling much slower than the speed of light and being perfectly visible in the vacuum of space. Researchers in Poland have now created a film to show what a laser bolt would actually look like. Read More
CubeSats are one of the wonders of our day. They allow projects with small budgets and smaller equipment to access low Earth orbit (LEO) at achievable costs. Seeing greater potential for these miniaturized modular satellites, Professor Benjamin Longmire of the University of Michigan is heading a team to install a miniature plasma thruster system into a 3U CubeSat, enabling the vehicle to leave LEO and cruise much of the Solar System. Funding for the project is being sought through Kickstarter. Read More

Well, our cyberpunk-weapons-making friend Patrick Priebe has been at it again. Having previously built things like a gauss rifle, a rotary-blade-shooting crossbow and an Iron Man laser gauntlet, he recently let us know about his latest creation – the video game-based Plasma Cutter. Read More

In September, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was being tuned to enable it to study proton-lead nucleus collisions for a data run next year. Eventually it ran and data was collected on the collisions for a period of four hours. When the data was analyzed, it revealed that some particle pairs produced in the collision were traveling in the same direction – a highly unusual situation. Although the data is not sufficient for certainty, the consensus appears to favor this as evidence for production of a color-glass condensate, a new form of exotic matter that has so far only existed as a theory. Read More
Not even a month since researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's National Ignition Facility (NIF) announced a 500 trillion watt laser shot, researchers at the Berkeley Lab Laser Accelerator (BELLA) have managed to deliver a record-breaking petawatt, that is, a quadrillion watts, in a pulse just 40 femtoseconds long at a rate of one pulse every second. To put that in perspective, a petawatt is more than the combined output of all electric power plants in the world at any given time and one femtosecond is a quadrillionth of a second. Read More
Thought that title might get your attention, but shooting lightning bolts down laser beams is just what a device being developed at the Picatinny Arsenal military research facility in New Jersey is designed to do. Known as a Laser-Induced Plasma Channel, or LIPC, the device would fry targets that conduct electricity better that the air or ground that surrounds them by steering lightning bolts down a plasma pathway created by laser beams. Read More
An international team of scientists has created a handheld, battery powered device that has been shown to effectively rid skin of bacteria in an instant by blasting it with plasma. The plasma flashlight, which shouldn’t be confused with a plasma torch that will damage much more than bacteria if used on the skin, could provide a convenient way for paramedics and military personnel to deal with harmful bacteria in the field. Read More
Judging by the number of folks who fall prey to food-borne illness each year, food safety is serious business, especially when you consider that pathogens such as Campylobacter and Salmonella contaminate over 70 percent of the raw chicken meat tested. Now, recent research from a food safety team at Pennsylvania's Drexel University offers proof-of-concept for what may one day be a common approach to preventing food-borne illness from raw poultry and meat products - the use of high-energy, low temperature plasma to eliminate unwanted bacteria while leaving the food basically unchanged. Read More
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