Magazine article Science News

Turning on a Femtosecond X-Ray Strobe

Magazine article Science News

Turning on a Femtosecond X-Ray Strobe

Article excerpt

Conventional X-ray imaging can capture the pocket of decay extending into a tooth or the fractured bone in an injured leg. X rays that penetrate crystals can also reveal details of internal structure.

Now, researchers have access to a new type of X-ray source that flashes in strobe-like pulses lasting only 300 femtoseconds. Such ultrashort pulses open up the possibility of tracking rapid changes in the atomic and molecular structures of materials and the progress of chemical reactions.

Robert W. Schoenlein of the Lawrence Berkeley (Calif.) National Laboratory and his colleagues describe their X-ray source in the Oct. 11 Science. "We've actually been able to observe and characterize the femtosecond X rays," Schoenlein says. "Right now, we're working on the first application."

The researchers generate X rays with a wavelength of 0.4 angstrom by sending a stream of pulsed infrared light from a powerful laser across a beam of tightly focused bunches of high-energy electrons. …

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