10 ways SLAC’s X-ray laser has transformed science

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Electrons accelerated by SLAC’s linear accelerator enter the LCLS undulator hall and run a gauntlet of 32 powerful undulators. Each undulator contains 224 magnets whose alternating poles force the electrons to zigzag violently and radiate X-rays. By the time they leave the undulator hall, the X-ray laser pulses are a billion times brighter than beams from traditional synchrotron X-ray sources, opening a new realm of possible experiments and discoveries. (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

The world’s first hard X-ray free-electron laser started operation with a bang. First experiments at LCLS stripped electrons one by one from neon atoms (illustrated above) and nitrogen molecules, in some cases removing only the innermost electrons to create "hollow atoms." Understanding how the machine’s ultra-bright X-ray pulses interact with matter will be critical for making clear, atomic-scale images of biological molecules and movies of chemical processes. (Greg Stewart/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

The X-ray Pump Probe instrument at SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source uses optical lasers to generate transient states of matter, which are then probed by high-energy (hard) X-rays. (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

This illustration shows atoms forming a tentative bond, a moment captured for the first time in experiments with LCLS. The reactants are a carbon monoxide molecule, left, made of a carbon atom (black) and an oxygen atom (red), and a single atom of oxygen, just to the right of it. They are attached to the surface of a ruthenium catalyst, which holds them close to each other so they can react more easily. When hit with an optical laser pulse, the reactants vibrate and bump into each other, and the carbon atom forms a transitional bond with the lone oxygen, center. The resulting carbon dioxide molecule detaches and floats away, upper right. (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

This illustration shows a protein complex at work in brain signaling. It contains two joined protein complexes: SNARE, shown in blue, red, and green, and synaptotagmin-1, shown in orange. The combined complex is responsible for the calcium-triggered release of neurotransmitters from our brain’s nerve cells in a process called synaptic vesicle fusion. In the background, electrical signals travel through a neuron. (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

The mosquito larvicide BinAB is composed of two proteins, BinA (yellow) and BinB (blue). Inside bacterial cells, BinAB naturally forms nanocrystals. Using these crystals and the intense X-ray pulses produced by LCLS, scientists shed light on the three-dimensional structure of BinAB and its mode of action. (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

In this illustration, an infrared laser beam (orange) triggers atomic vibrations in a thin layer of iron selenide, which are then recorded by ultrafast X-ray laser pulses (white) to create an ultrafast movie.áThe motion of the selenium atoms (red) changes the energy of the electron orbitals of the iron atoms (blue), and the resulting electron vibrations are recorded separately with a technique called ARPES (not shown). The coupling of atomic positions and electronic energies is much stronger thanápreviously thought and may significantly impact the material’s superconductivity. (Greg Stewart/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)á

In an experiment conducted at LCLS, researchers studied a plastic simulating compounds formed from methane-a molecule with just one carbon bound to four hydrogen atoms that causes the distinct blue cast of Neptune. Methane forms hydrocarbon (hydrogen and carbon) chains that respond to high pressure and temperature to form "diamond rain" in the interiors of icy giant planets like Neptune. The scientists were able to recreate similar conditions using high-powered optical lasers and watch the small diamonds form in real time with X-rays. (Greg Stewart/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

Scientific Topics Accelerator Science Advanced Accelerator R&D Astrophysics & Cosmology Batteries Biological Sciences Chemistry & Catalysis Condensed-Matter Physics Electron Diffraction/Microscopy Energy Science Engineering Environmental Science Lasers Materials Science Matter in Extreme Conditions Medical Structural Molecular Biology Superconductivity Ultrafast Science X-ray Science X-ray Crystallography X-ray Imaging X-ray Scattering/Diffraction X-ray Spectroscopy Lightsources Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) LCLS Macromolecular Femtosecond Crystallography (MFX) LCLS Atomic, Molecular & Optical Science (AMO) LCLS Soft X-ray Materials Science (SXR) LCLS X-ray Pump Probe (XPP) LCLS X-ray Correlation Spectroscopy (XCS) LCLS Coherent X-ray Imaging (CXI) LCLS Matter in Extreme Conditions (MEC) LCLS Ultrafast Science Instruments (LUSI) LCLS-II LCLS-II-HE Biosciences Division Future Lightsources

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