Z Machine: Meet the X-Ray Generator That Can Melt Diamonds


Photo: Randy Montoya/Sandia National Laboratories/SPL

Diamond is one of the hardest material in nature, but it's no match for the Z Machine at the Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It can create electromagnetic pulse that is strong enough to light 100 million light bulbs and melt diamonds:

First the current is fired at hundreds of tiny tungsten wires, vaporising them to form a cloud of charged particles, or plasma. The plasma produces a magnetic field that forces the particles to line up at the centre of the machine, so that they point out of the horizontal plane of its surface, along the vertical or z-axis - hence the machine's name. This arrangement causes the particles to collide, producing exceptionally powerful X-rays.

Z's magnetic field can also be harnessed to accelerate metal plates and squish materials. In fact, Sandia researcher Marcus Knudson was able to apply over 5 million times atmospheric pressure to squeeze diamond, turning the precious stone into a puddle.

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