First Atomic X-Ray Laser: SLAC researchers set world record (Video)
Menlo Park, CA, USA-- Scientists working at the US Department of Energy's (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
aimed SLAC's Linac Coherent Light Source at a capsule of neon gas, setting off an avalanche of X-ray emissions to create the shortest, purest X-ray laser pulses ever achieved , setting the world record for the First Atomic X-Ray Laser, according to World Record Academy (www.worldrecordacademy.com).
Photo: A powerful X-ray laser pulse from SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory's Linac Coherent Light Source comes up from the lower-left corner (shown as green) and hits a neon atom (center). SLAC scientists have created the shortest, purest X-ray laser pulses ever achieved. Illustration by Gregory M. Stewart, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (enlarge photo)
The Guinness world record for the world's most powerful laser was set by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, San Francisco, USA, where a laser consisting of 192 laser beams fired a one megajoule shot (sufficient energy to propel a one ton vehicle at 100mph), in what was effectively a dry run on a peppercorn sized pellet of nuclear fuel.
Guinness World Records also recognized the world record for the most powerful laser by output in terms of wattage, set by the Texas Petawatt Laser at the University of Texas. On 31 March 2008, it achieved an output of one petawatt, when it was fired for a tenth of a trillionth of a second.
The researchers aimed SLAC's LCLS at a capsule of neon gas, setting off an avalanche of X-ray emissions to create the world's first "atomic X-ray laser."
To make the atom laser, LCLS's powerful X-ray pulses--each a billion times brighter than any available before--knocked electrons out of the inner shells of many of the neon atoms in the capsule.
When other electrons fell in to fill the holes, about one in 50 atoms responded by emitting a photon in the X-ray range, which has a very short wavelength.
Those X-rays then stimulated neighboring neon atoms to emit more X-rays, creating a domino effect that amplified the laser light 200 million times.
Although LCLS and the neon capsule are both lasers, they create light in different ways and emit light with different attributes. The LCLS passes high-energy electrons through alternating magnetic fields to trigger production of X-rays; its X-ray pulses are brighter and much more powerful.
The new atomic X-ray laser fulfills a 1967 prediction that X-ray lasers could be made in the same manner as many visible-light lasers – by inducing electrons to fall from higher to lower energy levels within atoms, releasing a single color of light in the process. But until 2009, when LCLS turned on, no X-ray source was powerful enough to create this type of laser.
The atomic laser's pulses are only one-eighth as long and their color is much more pure, qualities that will enable it to illuminate and distinguish details of ultrafast reactions that had been impossible to see before.
"This achievement opens the door for a new realm of X-ray capabilities," said John Bozek, LCLS instrument scientist. "Scientists will surely want new facilities to take advantage of this new type of laser."
Additional authors included Richard London, Felicie Albert, James Dunn, Randal Hill and Stefan P. Hau-Riege from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL); Duncan Ryan, Michael Purvis and Jorge J. Rocca from Colorado State University; and Christoph Bostedt from SLAC.
The work was supported by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program. Authors Roca, Purvis and Ryan were supported by the DOE Office of Science. LCLS is a national scientific user facility operated by SLAC and supported by DOE's Office of Science.