Scientists Produce X-Ray Pulses Ten Times More Powerful Than Ever Before

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Scientists at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory developed a novel technique for testing the limits of the facility’s Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) X-ray free-electron laser (XFEL). They created a device that can generate 10 times the power of previous X-ray pulses while remaining within the LCLS’s present free-electron laser infrastructure.

This cutting-edge technology employs chirped pulse amplification (CPA), a technique for producing current, super-powerful optical laser pulses. According to Haoyuan Li, the study’s primary author, present X-ray laser pulses from free-electron lasers have a maximum output of about 100 gigawatts and typically have a complicated and chaotic structure.

CPA works by stretching an energy pulse before sending it via an amplifier and a compressor, which reverses the stretching done in the first stage. As a result, the pulse is exceptionally strong, clean, and short. CPA was founded in the 1980s by University of Rochester researchers Donna Strickland and GĂ©rard Mourou, who were awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics.

CPA has revolutionized the generation of high-intensity pulses for optical lasers, but it has been difficult to adapt the approach for X-ray wavelengths. Through thorough numerical modeling, the researchers developed a CPA approach for creating high-intensity hard X-ray pulses within the beam characteristics of an existing free-electron laser. The new system proves that it is capable of producing terawatt, femtosecond hard X-ray pulses utilizing current free-electron laser facilities, such as SLAC’s LCLS.

The team’s next step is building the system with a miniature prototype. Their findings were published in Physical Review Letters.

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