Major upgrade will boost power of world's brightest X-ray laser

Major upgrade will boost power of world's brightest X-ray laser
This is an illustration of an electron beam traveling through a niobium cavity -- a key component of SLAC's future LCLS-II X-ray laser. Kept at minus 456 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature at which niobium conducts electricity without losses, these cavities will power a highly energetic electron beam that will create up to 1 million X-ray flashes per second -- more than any other current or planned X-ray laser. Credit: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Construction begins today on a major upgrade to a unique X-ray laser at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. The project will add a second X-ray laser beam that's 10,000 times brighter, on average, than the first one and fires 8,000 times faster, up to a million pulses per second.

The project, known as LCLS-II, will greatly increase the power and capacity of SLAC's Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) for experiments that sharpen our view of how nature works on the atomic level and on ultrafast timescales.

"LCLS-II will take X-ray science to the next level, opening the door to a whole new range of studies of the ultrafast and ultrasmall," said LCLS Director Mike Dunne. "This will tremendously advance our ability to develop transformative technologies of the future, including novel electronics, life-saving drugs and innovative energy solutions."

SLAC Director Chi-Chang Kao said, "Our lab has a long tradition of building and operating premier X-ray sources that help users from around the world pursue cutting-edge research in chemistry, materials science, biology and energy research. LCLS-II will keep the U.S. at the forefront of X-ray science."

A Superior X-ray Microscope

When LCLS opened six years ago as a DOE Office of Science User Facility, it was the first light source of its kind - a unique X-ray microscope that uses the brightest and fastest X-ray pulses ever made to provide unprecedented details of the atomic world.

Major upgrade will boost power of world's brightest X-ray laser
The future LCLS-II X-ray laser (blue, at left) is shown alongside the existing LCLS (red, at right). LCLS uses the last third of SLAC's 2-mile-long linear accelerator -- a hollow copper structure that operates at room temperature and allows the generation of 120 X-ray pulses per second. For LCLS-II, the first third of the copper accelerator will be replaced with a superconducting one, capable of creating up to 1 million X-ray flashes per second. Credit: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Hundreds of scientists use LCLS each year to catch a glimpse of nature's fundamental processes in unprecedented detail. Molecular movies reveal how chemical bonds form and break; ultrafast snapshots capture electric charges as they rapidly rearrange in materials and change their properties; and sharp 3-D images of disease-related proteins provide atomic-level details that could hold the key for discovering potential cures.

The new X-ray laser will work in parallel with the existing one, with each occupying one-third of SLAC's 2-mile-long linear accelerator tunnel. Together they will allow researchers to make observations over a wider energy range, capture detailed snapshots of rapid processes, probe delicate samples that are beyond the reach of other light sources and gather more data in less time, thus greatly increasing the number of experiments that can be performed at this pioneering facility.

"The upgrade will benefit X-ray experiments in many different ways, and I'm very excited to use the new capabilities for my own research," said Brown University Professor Peter Weber, who co-led an LCLS study that used X-ray scattering to track ultrafast structural changes as ring-shaped gas molecules burst open in a chemical reaction vital to many processes in nature. "With LCLS-II, we'll be able to bring the motions of atoms much more into focus, which will help us better understand the dynamics of crucial chemical reactions."

A Big Leap in X-ray Laser Performance

Like the existing facility, LCLS-II will use electrons accelerated to nearly the speed of light to generate beams of extremely bright X-ray laser light. The electrons fly through a series of magnets, called an undulator, that forces them to travel a zigzag path and give off energy in the form of X-rays.

Major upgrade will boost power of world's brightest X-ray laser
An illustration of the electron accelerator of SLAC's future rapid-fire LCLS-II X-ray laser. Very cold, superconducting niobium cavities (not visible) inside a series of underground cryomodules (red tubes) boost the energy of a rapid sequence of electron bunches as they fly through the accelerator. The necessary energy for this process comes from high-power radiofrequency fields (blue) that are generated by klystrons above ground (structures at the top) and transferred to the cryomodules underground. Credit: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

But the way those electrons are accelerated will be quite different, and give LCLS-II much different capabilities.

At present, electrons are accelerated down a copper pipe that operates at room temperature and allows the generation of 120 X-ray laser pulses per second.

For LCLS-II, crews will install a superconducting accelerator. It's called "superconducting" because its niobium metal cavities conduct electricity with nearly zero loss when chilled to minus 456 degrees Fahrenheit. Accelerating electrons through a series of these cavities allows the generation of an almost continuous X-ray laser beam with pulses that are 10,000 times brighter, on average, than those of LCLS and arrive up to a million times per second.

Strong Partnerships for a Bright Future in X-ray Science

In addition to a new accelerator, LCLS-II requires a number of other cutting-edge components, including a new electron source, two powerful cryoplants that produce refrigerant for the niobium structures, and two new undulators to generate X-rays.

To make this major upgrade a reality, SLAC has teamed up with four other national labs - Argonne, Berkeley Lab, Fermilab and Jefferson Lab - and Cornell University, with each partner making key contributions to project planning as well as to component design, acquisition and construction.

"We couldn't do this without our collaborators," said SLAC's John Galayda, head of the LCLS-II project team. "To bring all the components together and succeed, we need the expertise of all partners, their key infrastructure and the commitment of their best people."

With favorable "Critical Decisions 2 and 3 (CD-2/3)" in March, DOE has formally approved construction of the $1 billion project, which is being funded by DOE's Office of Science. SLAC is now clearing out the first third of the linac to make room for the superconducting accelerator, which is scheduled to begin operations in the early 2020s. In the meantime, LCLS will continue to serve the X-ray science community, except for a construction-related, six-month downtime in 2017 and a 12-month shutdown extending from 2018 into 2019.

With the upgrades that are now moving forward, Dunne said, SLAC will have an X-ray laser facility that will enable groundbreaking research for years to come.


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Citation: Major upgrade will boost power of world's brightest X-ray laser (2016, April 4) retrieved 18 September 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2016-04-major-boost-power-world-brightest.html
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Apr 04, 2016
How hard can it be to use Kelvin?
Is this a proper science mag or is it Vired?
2 Kelvin for you readers

Apr 04, 2016
How do you spell L-A-S-E-R F-U-S-I-O-N ??

Livermore...Are you listening? replace all 192 of those visible light lasers with this. You all know how much more potential energy is in X-rays than in visible light photons

Apr 04, 2016
Awesome. A lot of groundbreaking research has been done with these light sources, and with one this powerful I think we can expect a lot more. This has applications all over the scientific landscape.

Apr 05, 2016
Shame on you fools still using Fahrenheit!

Apr 05, 2016
Osiris, have you looked at the size of this thing, It's got to be several block long. With 192 of these facing spherically inwards, you need a huge building

Apr 05, 2016
How do you spell L-A-S-E-R F-U-S-I-O-N ??

Livermore...Are you listening? replace all 192 of those visible light lasers with this. You all know how much more potential energy is in X-rays than in visible light photons

For fusion you want energy to couple from the laser to the object you're aiming it at. x-rays are not optimal for this. The power of a laser alone isn't the metric you should be looking at.
Also x-ray lasers (and high energy lasers in general) are very inefficient. You pump a lot of energy in and only a few percent of that energy actually is gotten as laser output. For fusion (in a context of a fusion powerplant) you have to get this energy from somewhere (i.e. your powerplant output). the aim is to put in a s little energy as possible for as much fusion output as possible. X-ray lasers aren't optimal by this metric , either.

Apr 05, 2016
How do you spell L-A-S-E-R F-U-S-I-O-N ??

Livermore...Are you listening? replace all 192 of those visible light lasers with this. You all know how much more potential energy is in X-rays than in visible light photons

For fusion you want energy to couple from the laser to the object you're aiming it at. x-rays are not optimal for this. The power of a laser alone isn't the metric you should be looking at.
Correct. Visible light is at wavelengths that interact with the electron clouds of atoms; X-rays are so powerful that they knock the electrons out of the atoms and make stuff come flying out. Not so useful when you want to compress a fuel pellet like laser fusion is supposed to.

Apr 11, 2016
First thing one learns in physics of light...the shorter the wavelength, the more energy per quanta. This device puts out over 8*(10^7) times the energy of the beam it replaces; and it is superconducting, so efficiency has got to be greater. At small enough wavelengths (λ= nuclear radius[Pu239]) and high enough power it could be a straight matter-->energy converter, just as good as an anti-matter rocket, and a better magnetoelectrohydrodynamic generator of electricity than we have ever known. Any idiot can throw 'ones'. It takes vision and imagination to see possibilities. Rest assured the Chinese read this forum too. We poo -pooed the 'emDrive'. The Chinese are working on it. We drove Podkletnov from his post at Tampere and Dr Ning-Li from her job at an American Space center. Gravity research. Dr. Li went back to China. Rather imagine her work there is much classified. Just two examples. Only fools whistle past graveyards.

Apr 11, 2016
At small enough wavelengths (λ= nuclear radius[Pu239]) and high enough power it could be a straight matter-->energy converter


Wut?

You're kind of right, small wavelength = more energy, but that isn't even at all the same as needing a nuclear wavelength to make nuclear particles. Wiki gives x-rays as 100 eV to 100 keV. Electrons are 500 keV. And you have to make an electron and a positron when you convert photons to matter, so you'd need at least 1 MeV in collision energy to create a pair. That's gamma rays, not x-rays.

This upgrade isn't even about increasing the frequency (as best I can tell), it's about increasing luminosity (more photons in the beam).

I mean there are so many things fundamentally misunderstood in your post that it's no doubt people are 'throwing ones' at it.

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