With their ability to penetrate matter and resolve individual atoms, X-rays are among scientists’ most useful tools for determining the structure and behavior of molecules and materials. This information is valuable for many applications, from developing effective drugs with fewer side effects to devising new materials for electronics and clean energy technologies.
SLAC’s unique X-ray facilities – the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) and the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL) – attract thousands of researchers from universities, industries and laboratories around the world each year.
Powered by one-third of SLAC’s 2-mile-long linear accelerator, LCLS is the world’s first hard X-ray free-electron laser. It produces up to 120 X-ray pulses a second, each only a few millionths of a billionth of a second long yet more than a billion times brighter than any previous source.
Scientists use LCLS to take stop-action pictures of atoms and molecules in motion, shedding light on the fundamental processes of chemistry, technology and life itself.
Working with a suite of six LCLS instruments, researchers are developing new ways to obtain meaningful images of samples sprayed or squirted into the path of the X-ray laser beam, and creating X-ray holograms that record magnetic orientation within materials with unprecedented resolution.
Throughout its 30-year history, SSRL’s extremely bright X-rays have enabled scientists to explore the world at the atomic and molecular levels in search of discoveries in drug design, energy efficiency and supply, toxic waste cleanup, electronics, telecommunications and manufacturing.
Research at SSRL's 30 experimental stations has contributed to the development of medications for fighting flu, late-stage melanoma and HIV, new types of solar cells, more powerful electronics, catalysts that speed chemical reactions and novel computing technologies.
SSRL staff have also developed an automated apparatus and procedures for users to manage their samples and tests remotely over the Internet, thus greatly increasing the efficiency and reducing the cost of their X-ray investigations.