Inertially confined plasma in an imploding bubble

David J. Flannigan, Kenneth S. Suslick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Models of spherical supersonic bubble implosion in cavitating liquids predict that it could generate temperatures and densities sufficient to drive thermonuclear fusion 1,2 . Convincing evidence for fusion is yet to be shown, but the transient conditions generated by acoustic cavitation are certainly extreme 3-5 . There is, however, a remarkable lack of observable data on the conditions created during bubble collapse. Only recently has strong evidence of plasma formation been obtained 6 . Here we determine the plasma electron density, ion-broadening parameter and degree of ionization during single-bubble sonoluminescence as a function of acoustic driving pressure. We find that the electron density can be controlled over four orders of magnitude and exceed 10 21 cm -3 -comparable to the densities produced in laser-driven fusion experiments 7 -with effective plasma temperatures ranging from 7,000 to more than 16,000ĝ€‰K. At the highest acoustic driving force, we find that neutral Ar emission lines no longer provide an accurate measure of the conditions in the plasma. By accounting for the temporal profile of the sonoluminescence pulse and the potential optical opacity of the plasma, our results suggest that the ultimate conditions generated inside a collapsing bubble may far exceed those determined from emission from the transparent outer region of the light-emitting volume.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)598-601
Number of pages4
JournalNature Physics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Science Foundation. We thank S. Putterman and N. Eddingsaas for useful discussions.


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