Friday, October 1, 2010

Laser Beads

I spend most Fridays at Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, working in the Argon lab. We heat up small samples of volcanic rocks, ashes, and ocean sediments with a powerful laser to measure the argon gas trapped inside. This process of laser heating fuses the samples into small glass beads.

Here's a picture of one sample, from a deep-sea sediment core, before heating:

The sample is composed of small particles, 10s of microns across. The fragment pictured weighs less than one milligram.

After intense heating by the laser, these things turn into small, beautiful orbs.

Air bubbles are trapped inside.

This one, for some reason, formed a donut hole.

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