As any fan of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home knows, Scotty famously trades the formula for a futuristic material called "transparent aluminum" to a 20th century manufacturing company in exchange for a shipment of materials he needs to build on-board whale tanks. "Transparent aluminum" is so revolutionary in the 20th century that the manufacturing company's CEO almost has a heart attack when he sees the formula, which always made me wonder why the future world that the Star Trekkers came back to wasn't at least slightly different than the world they left. After all, in giving away the "transparent aluminum" formula, they had altered history.But I digress. The important thing today is the news from New Scientist that we may actually be getting close to real transparent aluminum:
At standard temperature and pressure, solid aluminium is a lattice of ions, with a sea of free electrons in between. The FLASH beam had enough energy to knock an electron out of each ion and set it free, while the photon got absorbed in the process.It's not full-on transparent to the naked eye, but it is moving in that direction. Not coincidentally, as a 2005 Air Force press release notes, this is an innovation the military has been interested in for years.
Normally in a solid metal, another electron will instantly take the place of the missing one. Flash is so powerful that it can rip an electron out of every atom before others have a chance to replace them. With one electron removed, the remaining electrons around each ion settle into a different configuration, becoming too tightly bound for the laser to remove.
That means the X-ray photons can't be easily absorbed, and they fly straight through the material, making the previously opaque aluminium transparent to X-rays.
Nerdivore:: Star Trek IV In Real Life: Scotty's "Transparent Aluminum" May Be Around the Corner