The Most Powerful X-ray Laser in the World Created in the USA – Capable of Filming Molecules and Atoms in Real-Time

Visit Us
Follow Me
Image source: Jacqueline Ramseyer Orrell/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Scientists in the United States have achieved a major breakthrough by creating the world’s most powerful X-ray laser, known as the LCLS-II, at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. This achievement, following nearly a decade of upgrades to the existing laser, has multiplied its power and capabilities a thousandfold. The laser’s pulse frequency has now increased to one million times per second. This means that scientists will be able to capture “movies” of the behavior of molecules and atoms in materials in real-time, unlocking the secrets of the universe.

The LCLS (Linac Coherent Light Source), the world’s first X-ray free-electron laser, started operating at SLAC in 2009 and had a pulse rate of up to 120 X-ray flashes per second. It consisted of a copper waveguide located under standard room conditions. These short but relatively powerful X-ray pulses, generated as a result of electron acceleration, bombarded the sample under investigation, providing insights into its molecular and atomic structure. Higher energy levels and pulse frequencies yield more accurate images, even allowing for the real-time observation of molecules and atoms.

The new installation incorporates cryogenic electron accelerators. However, the old copper-based setup has been preserved and will participate in new experiments alongside the new system. This will enable data collection across an extended range of energies, providing a more comprehensive dataset for experiments. The difference between the two setups is staggering: the pulse frequency of the new installation is 8,000 times higher than that of the old one. This high frequency allows researchers to monitor extremely rapid processes in materials and chemical reactions, making it especially important for quantum studies, which are often counterintuitive or unpredictable.

Scientists have eagerly awaited this tool, and they are now lining up to conduct research on the LCLS-II, with experiments set to commence in the coming weeks. The installation is in demand across various fields, including materials science, quantum sciences, biochemistry, pharmacology, geology, and many others where a detailed understanding of chemical processes and substance structures plays a crucial role. The scientific community stands at the threshold of a new era of discoveries, and these are not empty words. In Russia, by the way, a similar research facility called “SKIF” is under construction, along with several smaller installations. But that’s a story for another time.

Author Profile

Vasyl Kolomiiets
Vasyl Kolomiiets
I'm Vasyl Kolomiiets, a seasoned tech journalist regularly contributing to global publications. Having a profound background in information technologies, I seamlessly blended my technical expertise with my passion for writing, venturing into technology journalism. I've covered a wide range of topics including cutting-edge developments and their impacts on society, contributing to leading tech platforms.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *