X-ray Science

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A New Tool to Split X-ray Laser Pulses

A new tool at SLAC's Linac Coherent Light Source splits individual X-ray laser pulses into two pulses that can hit a target one right after another with precisely controlled timing, allowing scientists to trigger and measure specific ultrafast changes in atoms and molecules.

Speed Limit Set for Ultrafast Electrical Switch

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have clocked the fastest-possible electrical switching in magnetite, a naturally magnetic mineral. Their results could drive innovations in the tiny transistors that control the flow of electricity across silicon chips, enabling faster, more powerful computing devices.

New Test Bed Probes the Origin of Pulses at LCLS

It all comes down to one tiny spot on a diamond-cut, highly pure copper plate. That's where every X-ray laser pulse at SLAC's Linac Coherent Light Source gets its start. That tiny spot must be close to perfect or it can impair and even halt LCLS operations.

SLAC in May 2013 opened a new test facility at the Accelerator Structure Test Area (ASTA) to study the complex physics and chemistry that cause that shiny copper slab, called a cathode, to degrade over time, and to identify ways to maintain and improve its performance.

SPEAR-heading X-ray Science for 40 Years

Last Saturday marked the 40th anniversary of an historic event: In 1973, a team of research pioneers extracted hard X-rays for the first time from SLAC's SPEAR accelerator. Like X-rays from an X-ray tube, the radiation generated by SPEAR can deeply penetrate a large variety of materials and probe their inner structures. However, SPEAR's X-rays are significantly more intense and unlock the possibility for brand new science.

All Systems Go: A New High-energy Record for LCLS

John Hill watched with eager anticipation as controllers ramped up the power systems driving SLAC's X-ray laser in an attempt to achieve the record high energies needed to make his experiment a runaway success.

The Brookhaven National Laboratory scientist was the leader of a research team that had come from Illinois, Germany, Switzerland and England to use the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), and this was their last day. They would get only one shot.

Research Paints New Picture of 'Dinobird' Feathers

The first complete chemical analysis of feathers from Archaeopteryx, a famous fossil linking dinosaurs and birds, reveals that the feathers were patterned—light in color, with a dark edge and tip—rather than all black, as previously thought.

SLAC's X-ray Laser Explores Big Data Frontier

It's no surprise that the data systems for SLAC's Linac Coherent Light Source X-ray laser have drawn heavily on the expertise of the particle physics community, where collecting and analyzing massive amounts of data are key to scientific success.

With its detectors collecting information on atomic- and molecular-scale phenomena measured in quadrillionths of a second, LCLS stores data at a rate and scale comparable to experiments at the world's most powerful particle collider, the Large Hadron Collider in Europe.

SLAC X-rays Resurrect 200-year-old Opera

At first glance the beautifully bound 1797 Luigi Cherubini opera Médée looks like an impeccably preserved relic of opera's golden age. However, flip to the final pages of the aria "Du trouble affreux qui me dévore" ("The terrible disorder that consumes me") and you see the problem: Thick smudges of carbon completely black out the closing lines.