Video: Laser Beam Makes Falling Droplets Explode

In slow motion

In mere fractions of a second, a laser turns a millimeter-sized droplet of liquid into a constellation of tiny fragments. Captured at 20,000 frames per second by a team of researchers from the University of Twente in the Netherlands, “Laser Impact On A Drop” is violently beautiful.

Here’s now the researchers describe the experiment:

The energy deposition in a liquid drop on a nanosecond time scale by impact of a laser pulse can induce various reactions, such as vaporization or plasma generation. The response of the drop can be extremely violent: The drop gets strongly deformed and propelled forward at several m/s, and subsequently breaks up or even explodes. These effects are used in a controlled manner during the generation of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) light in nanolithography machines for the fabrication of leading-edge semiconductor microchips. Detailed understanding of the fundamentals of this process is of key importance in order to advance the latest lithography machines.

That’s cool, but better semiconductors seems both important and the least exciting use of this technology possible. What we really want to know: If this is scaled up enough, can it reduce an Alderaan-sized planet into so much space dust?