Single-bubble sonoluminescence (SBSL) results from the extreme temperatures and pressures achieved during bubble compression; calculations have predicted the existence of a hot, optically opaque plasma core with consequent bremsstrahlung radiation. Recent controversial reports claim the observation of neutrons from deuterium-deuterium fusion during acoustic cavitation. However, there has been previously no strong experimental evidence for the existence of a plasma during single- or multi-bubble sonoluminescence. SBSL typically produces featureless emission spectra that reveal little about the intra-cavity physical conditions or chemical processes. Here we report observations of atomic (Ar) emission and extensive molecular (SO) and ionic (O2+) progressions in SBSL spectra from concentrated aqueous H2SO 4 solutions. Both the Ar and SO emission permit spectroscopic temperature determinations, as accomplished for multi-bubble sonoluminescence with other emitters. The emissive excited states observed from both Ar and O2+ are inconsistent with any thermal process. The Ar excited states involved are extremely high in energy (>13 eV) and cannot be thermally populated at the measured Ar emission temperatures (4,000-15,000 K); the ionization energy of O2 is more than twice its bond dissociation energy, so O2+ likewise cannot be thermally produced. We therefore conclude that these emitting species must originate from collisions with high-energy electrons, ions or particles from a hot plasma core.
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