A bold new study claims that it would be possible to generate magnetic fields comparable with those that exist in neutron stars and black holes, on Earth, Live Science reports.
According to the media outlet, although no one has managed to surpass the results of a 2018 lab experiment where lasers were employed to create a magnetic field “just over” 1 kilotesla (1,000 tesla; to put it in perspective, magnetic resonance imaging machines used in hospitals usually produce a magnetic field of about 1 tesla), the new research suggests that generating a megatesla (1 million tesla) field “should be possible”.
Using computer simulations and modelling, the researchers discovered that shooting "ultra-intense laser pulses" at hollow tubes a few microns in diameter may energise the electrons in the tube's wall and cause the tube to implode, resulting in a process that could "amplify a pre-existing magnetic field by two to three orders of magnitude".
And although the megatesla magnetic field would fade after about 10 nanoseconds, the media outlets note that it's "plenty of time for modern physics experiments, which frequently work with particles and conditions that wink out of existence in far less than the blink of an eye".
The researchers also argue that such an experiment should be possible with the technology which is available at present, as it would require "a laser system with a pulse energy of 0.1 to 1 kilojoule and a total power of 10 to 100 petawatts". Live Science added that ten-petawatt lasers are "already being deployed as part of the European Extreme Light Infrastructure”, and scientists in China seek to "build a 100 petawatt laser called the Station of Extreme Light".
"The concept holds promise to open new frontiers in many branches of fundamental physics and applications in terms of ultrahigh magnetic fields", the study's authors state in an abstract of their work, published in Scientific Reports.