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The World's First Free-Electron X-ray Laser

August 17, 2010 - 6:19pm

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The World's First Free-Electron X-ray Laser

Yesterday, Secretary Chu participated in the dedication of the world's first free-electron and most powerful X-ray laser, the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS). In light of this occasion (pun intended), we posted an in-depth look at the innovative nature of this new instrument and its potential to tackle some of life’s biggest mysteries. The Secretary seemed just as geeked about the possibilities of the LCLS, stating that "this is a new instrument that will enable us to see the structure of materials that we could not determine by any other means … Knowing those structures will lead to a deeper understanding of how they work and numerous new discoveries, from pharmaceuticals to solar voltaics."

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The Secretary, who used lasers in his noble prize-winning work, went on to state that the LCLS is also a testament to the belief that America can and must lead in scientific discovery. He further indicated that world class facilities like LCLS are the key to global leadership in science. After all, many nations have smart scientists, but the nation with the top facilities often leads the way. That is one reason why the Recovery Act included more than $50 million to accelerate the construction of scientific instruments for the LCLS -- a contribution that helped the project finish ahead of schedule and under budget.

It’s an investment that’s already paying off, as SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, where the LCLS is housed, has received 850 proposals from scientists across the globe who would like to utilize the X-ray laser as part of their research. Many researchers speculate that the LCLS could be used to help capture images of the proteins that cause Alzheimer’s or unlock the key to turning sunlight into fuel.

These grand aspirations don’t surprise Secretary Chu, in fact he insists that the results of research done with this new laser technology will inevitably impact “things we use every day. This is a guaranteed payoff."

For an in-depth look at how the Linac Coherent Light Source works and it’s possible implications, check out “Unlocking Life's Mysteries (One Atom at a Time)”.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This blog entry was updated on 08/20/10 to reflect LCLS's status as the first free-electron X-ray laser. It had previously been inaccurately referred to as the "world's first x-ray laser.

 

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