P. W. Bridgman’s contributions to the foundations of shock compression of condensed matter

Based on his 50-year career in static high-pressure research, P. W. Bridgman (PWB) is the father of modern high-pressure physics. What is not generally recognized is that Bridgman was also intimately connected with establishing shock compression as a scientific tool and he predicted major events in shock research that occurred up to 40 years after his death. In 1956 the first phase transition under shock compression was reported in Fe at 13 GPa (130 kbar). PWB said a phase transition could not occur in ~μsec, thus setting off a controversy. The scientific legitimacy of shock compression resulted 5 years later when static high-pressure researchers confirmed with x-ray diffraction the existence of e-Fe. Once PWB accepted the fact that shock waves generated with chemical explosives were a valid scientific tool, he immediately realized that substantially higher pressures would be achieved with nuclear explosives. He included his ideas for achieving higher pressures in articles published a few years after his death. L. V. Altshuler eventually read Bridgman’s articles and pursued the idea of using nuclear explosives to generate super high pressures, which subsequently morphed today into giant lasers. PWB also anticipated combining static and shock methods, which today is done with pre-compression of a soft sample in a diamond anvil cell followed by laserdriven shock compression. One variation of that method is the reverberating-shock technique, in which the first shock “pre-compresses” a soft sample and subsequent reverberations isentropically compress the first-shocked state.

Contributed by W. J. Nellis

Full article available as a PDF file, linked below, and also as a preprint (arXiv:0906.0106).

BridgmanHistory-Shocks.pdf123.76 KB