The recently opened Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (SNAL) provides scientists around the world with a brilliant new tool to understand fundamental properties of atoms and materials at previously unreachable dimensions.
Its birth, however, could not have occurred without the expertise of Argonne scientists.
The LCLS is a very powerful example of an X-ray free-electron laser, which comprises a series of magnetic structures called undulators that provide precise magnetic fields through which an electron beam travels. Electrons are forced to oscillate back and forth as they traverse through the undulators, producing large quantities of X-rays.
These X-rays then interact with the electrons that generated them, causing the electrons to bunch at particular wavelengths - this new bunch pattern dramatically boosts the intensity of the produced X-rays.
The precision and stability specifications required of the undulators at LCLS exceed those at Argonne's own Advanced Photon Source (APS) and other light-source facilities around the world.
The pulses of X-ray laser light from LCLS will be shorter than those produced at storage ring sources, resulting in an instantaneous brightness a billion times larger than can be produced by any other X-ray source available now or in the near future.