Scientists at the Energy Unit of the US National Laboratory Accelerator Laboratory (SLAC) are on the verge of completing the world’s brightest laser. Called LCLS-II, the laser is expected to be 10,000 times more powerful than the world’s brightest laser once launched. The LCLS-II laser is centrally located 9 meters underground near Stanford University and will help physicists learn about the world’s fundamental unknowns.
The LCLS-II laser reaches a length of 3.2 km and is capable of producing pulses in less than femtosecond intervals. Femtoseconds compared to seconds is similar to seconds compared to the life of the universe. The ability to generate pulses at this very high speed allows scientists to perform experiments that were not previously possible.
Hence, LCLS-II is somewhat similar to a microscope with atomic surface resolution. In the central part of this device is a powerful particle accelerator that increases the speed of charged particles and converts them into very strong rays. This beam then passes through a set of magnets to produce an X-ray. Scientists can use these X-rays to create something called molecular films. These films can be thought of as images of moving atoms or molecules. Each photo is taken in a few quadrillionths of a second and then filmed together.
The world’s brightest laser will produce its first X-ray next summer
With the previous generation of this laser, scientists were able to make important discoveries, such as the behavior of atoms within stars and details about the process of photosynthesis. Now Andrew Braille, director of Slack Labs, says their new laser, capable of producing pulses at femtoseconds, could change everything.
In addition, the LCLS-II laser uses a new material for its superconducting accelerator to be able to withstand high temperatures for long-term operations. This material is made of several 12-meter devices called Cryomodule, which works at a temperature of two degrees above absolute zero.
Slack scientists hope to light their new laser in 2022 and produce the first X-rays this summer.