Watch the world’s brightest X-ray explode water droplets in slow motion

Scientists wanted to better understand how X-rays might cause tiny explosions when being used to examine samples suspended in water. And so, naturally, they used the brightest X-ray in the world to explode a lot of water, illuminating up the scene with lasers and capturing images using high resolution microscopes. The resulting footage is strange, wonderful, and abstract, showing droplets bursting, jets splitting, and umbrellas of water opening and closing on themselves. All completely scientifically of course.

“It could help us find new ways of using explosions.”

In a press release, Claudiu Stan of Stanford University’s PULSE Institute, which helped conduct the experiments, said the footage would help scientists avoid “unwanted effects” when X-raying samples suspended in liquid. “It could also help us find new ways of using explosions caused by X-rays to trigger changes in samples and study matter under extreme conditions,” he added.

The researchers focused on how X-rays would affect two configurations of water: droplets and jets. To make each video they repeated the experiment hundreds of times, capturing just one image from each separate explosion before stringing them all together to make a movie. This is the first time such footage has ever been captured.

In the video above you can see how a droplet of water explodes after being hit by the X-ray. “This generates a cloud of smaller particles and vapor that expands toward neighboring drops and damages them. These damaged drops then start moving toward the next-nearest drops and merge with them.” The footage spans just  9 millionths of a second in real time.

In this second video an X-ray punches a hole in a jet of water. From the press release: “This gap continues to grow, with the ends of the jet on either side of the gap beginning to form a thin liquid film. The film develops an umbrella-like shape, which eventually folds back and merges with the jet.” Again, this is all happening in 9 millionths of a second.

Using this data, scientists will be able to better predict interactions between powerful X-rays and tiny amounts of water. Stan says the information will be used to “tune” jets of water so that they recover more quickly after being torn apart by X-rays. You can read about the experiments in more detail in a study published in Nature.

via The Verge


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