Stanford scientists created a sound so loud it instantly boils water

Yes, it's possible to rawk too hard, but it's not possible to get any louder under water.

Eric Mack Contributing Editor
Eric Mack has been a CNET contributor since 2011. Eric and his family live 100% energy and water independent on his off-grid compound in the New Mexico desert. Eric uses his passion for writing about energy, renewables, science and climate to bring educational content to life on topics around the solar panel and deregulated energy industries. Eric helps consumers by demystifying solar, battery, renewable energy, energy choice concepts, and also reviews solar installers. Previously, Eric covered space, science, climate change and all things futuristic. His encrypted email for tips is ericcmack@protonmail.com.
Expertise Solar, solar storage, space, science, climate change, deregulated energy, DIY solar panels, DIY off-grid life projects, and CNET's "Living off the Grid" series Credentials
  • Finalist for the Nesta Tipping Point prize and a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Eric Mack
2 min read

Researchers at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory based at Stanford University created an underwater sound so loud that it instantly vaporizes water and appears to set the threshold for how intense sound can be in water. 

The scientists used SLAC's powerful X-ray laser to blast tiny jets of water with short pulses of high frequency energy. When the x-rays hit the microscopic stream of water they instantly vaporized the water molecules around them like spit on a hot skillet. They also sent a shock wave traveling through the stream that can actually be seen moving to the left and right of the blast spot below:

After blasting tiny jets of water with an X-ray laser, researchers watched left- and right-moving trains of shockwaves travel away from microbubble filled regions. 

Claudiu Stan/Rutgers University Newark

What's interesting about this shock wave is that it's strong enough that it's easy to see how it is clearly disturbing the stream of water, but not enough that the molecules completely break down as they do at the point of contact with the powerful X-rays. The researchers suggest that the pressure created by the shock waves was just below this breaking point. That means it would also appear to be the upper limit of how loud a sound can possibly get under water before it breaks it apart, essentially boiling it on contact.

The research was published in a recent issue of the journal Physical Review Fluids

In other words, yes metal-heads, it is possible to rock so hard that you instantly boil water. In case you're wondering, the sound pressure equivalent of this experiment is 270 decibels. That's louder than a rocket launch and equal to the intensity of directing all the electrical power in an entire city onto one spot. 

If you ever were to experience such a sound directly, ear plugs wouldn't help because the intensity would not only rupture your eardrums, but probably your heart and lungs as well. 

So definitely don't try this one at home kids and remember: a life filled with smooth jazz is a long life.