Highest X-ray energy used to probe materials

Jul 22, 2010
Highest X-ray energy used to probe materials

Scientists for the first time have dived into the effect that an intense X-ray free electron laser (XFEL) has on materials.

Using the (LCLS) facility at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore scientists probed at X-ray energies of up to 8 keV (kiloelectronvolts), the highest X-ray energy ever used at an XFEL, to see how it behaved when the laser hit it.

The photoluminescence-based pulse-energy detector allowed the team to study the interaction - including electron dynamics and space charge effects - between nitrogen gas and the XFEL beam. Understanding the precise dynamics at work on these scales will forever change the understanding of chemistry, physics and materials science.

The XFEL's is so bright at 8 kilo electron volts and so fast (it has a pulse length from 10 femtoseconds to 100 femtoseconds) that LLNL scientists were able to validate the physics of simulations done using nitrogen gas. (One is one quadrillionth of a second).

"The detailed physics is very important for most LCLS experiments since it determines the interpretation of the results," said Lab scientist Stefan Hau-Riege. "The unique thing about this experiment is that it was performed upstream from the LCLS mirrors, and so we had access to the full range of LCLS X-ray energies (which went up to 8 keV at the time)."

The heart of the LCLS is a that produces beams of coherent, high-energy X-rays. Coherence - the phenomenon of all photons in a beam acting together in perfect lockstep - makes laser light far brighter than ordinary light. Since X-ray photons at the LCLS are coherent, the resulting beam of light will be as much as a billion times brighter than any other X-ray light source available today.

The LCLS also contains a femto-camera that can sequence together images of the ultra small, taken with the ultrafast pulses of the LCLS. Scientists are for the first time creating molecular movies, revealing the frenetic action of the atomic world.

The LCLS, and its cousins planned in Germany and Japan, improves on third-generation light sources. The third-generation sources are circular, stadium-size synchrotrons, and they produce streams of incoherent X-ray photons. Since their pulses are long compared to the motion of electrons around an atom, synchrotron light sources cannot begin to explore the dynamic motion of molecules.

The pulses of light from the fourth-generation LCLS are so short, lasting for just quadrillionths of a second, that its beam provides an X-ray strobe light to capture such atomic and molecular behavior.

Explore further: What time is it in the universe?

More information: The research will appear in the July 27 online edition of Physical Review Letters.

Provided by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

4.4 /5 (7 votes)

Related Stories

Early results from the world's brightest X-ray source

Jun 22, 2010

The first published scientific results from experiments at SLAC's Linac Coherent Light Source are out. The report, published today in Physical Review Letters, is the first look at how molecules respond to ult ...

World's First Hard X-ray Laser Achieves 'First Light'

Apr 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- The world's brightest X-ray source sprang to life last week at the U.S. Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. The Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) offers researchers ...

FLASH Imaging Redux: Nano-Cinema is Born

Jul 08, 2008

Flash imaging of nanoscale objects undergoing ultrafast changes is now a technical possibility, according to a recent paper published in the June 22 edition of Nature Photonics. The results are a direct precur ...

First Test of New X-ray Laser Strips Neon Bare

Sep 18, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- It takes a lot of energy to strip all ten electrons from an atom of neon. Doing it from the inside out, knocking away the most-closely-held, innermost electrons first, is an even rarer feat. ...

Recommended for you

What time is it in the universe?

6 minutes ago

Flavor Flav knows what time it is. At least he does for Flavor Flav. Even with all his moving and accelerating, with the planet, the solar system, getting on planes, taking elevators, and perhaps even some ...

Watching the structure of glass under pressure

18 hours ago

Glass has many applications that call for different properties, such as resistance to thermal shock or to chemically harsh environments. Glassmakers commonly use additives such as boron oxide to tweak these ...

Inter-dependent networks stress test

21 hours ago

Energy production systems are good examples of complex systems. Their infrastructure equipment requires ancillary sub-systems structured like a network—including water for cooling, transport to supply fuel, and ICT systems ...

Explainer: How does our sun shine?

22 hours ago

What makes our sun shine has been a mystery for most of human history. Given our sun is a star and stars are suns, explaining the source of the sun's energy would help us understand why stars shine. ...

User comments : 0