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Brutal Bubbles: Collapsing orbs rip apart atoms

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10:52am, March 2, 2005

Fill a flask with liquid, rattle it with ultrasonic waves, and hellish microcosms can form within the fluid. Tiny gas bubbles swell and then implode with a fury now revealed to be extreme enough to strip electrons from atoms trapped in the collapse.

The Illinois chemists who have detected that atomic destruction for the first time have also directly measured temperatures of the imploding bubbles. Some of these register at least 15,000 kelvins, a temperature about three times as hot as the Sun's surface.

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