Beyond the boil

An X-ray laser can heat water to 100,000 degrees Celsius in less than a tenth of a picosecond, creating a plasma of the familiar substance which could shed light on some of the bizarre properties of water. Of course, that amount of energy is not simply super-super-heating the water, rather the X-rays completely ionize the water leading to strong repulsive forces between the atoms. Bizarrely, although the water has been converted to the plasma state it retains the original density of water. The phenomenon could help guide X-ray studies of biological molecules in aqueous samples.