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.
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.
Last year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry – shared by Stanford School of Medicine Professor Brian Kobilka and Robert Lefkowitz of Duke University – recognized groundbreaking research in G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). GPCRs are embedded in cell membranes. They interact with signaling molecules outside of cells and trigger responses within cells.
Stephanie Mack, 20, read and reread the email in disbelief. After spending time during the past two summers in a science internship program at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, she was heading back.
This time she would be at the helm of the world's most powerful X-ray laser, leading an international collaboration as the principal investigator in an experiment exploring how to precisely control the motion of electrons in specially prepared samples of a mineral called manganite.
SLAC researchers have demonstrated for the first time how to produce pairs of X-ray laser pulses in slightly different wavelengths, or colors, with finely adjustable intervals between them – a feat that will allow them to watch molecular motion as it unfolds and explore other ultrafast processes.
Using laser light to read and write magnetic data by quickly flipping tiny magnetic domains could help keep pace with the demand for faster computing devices.
Now experiments with SLAC's Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) X-ray laser have given scientists their first detailed look at how light controls the first trillionth of a second of this process, known as all-optical magnetic switching.