Bay Area lab unveils world's most powerful X-ray laser

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Tuesday, September 19, 2023 1:38AM
South Bay lab unveils world's most powerful X-ray laser
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Menlo Park's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has unveiled the world's most powerful X-ray laser.

MENLO PARK, Calif. (KGO) -- A new era of science is kicking off right here in the Bay Area thanks to the world's most powerful X-ray laser. The brilliant minds working from Menlo Park's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have finally unveiled it.

"It's really a discovery machine," said Matthias Kling, science and R&D director of LCLS, "We can look at processes that are unknown, that we haven't yet discovered."

That "discovery machine" called LCLS-II has been under development for more than a decade.

It builds on the original LCLS or linac coherent light sources, an X-ray-free electron laser.

"Imagine LCLS is a giant microscope and now with LCLS-II, we have about 10,000 times the light, essentially to look at things," Kling said, "So that enables you to see things that we haven't seen before."

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Those behind it say it's going to transform the ability of scientists to explore atomic-scale, ultra-fast phenomena.

Through those explorations, huge strides can be made in things like clean energy technologies and medicine.

In 2009, the original LCLS machine made the U.S. a leader in this type of technology.

"It was such a groundbreaking machine that six machines around the world immediately started construction," said project director Greg Hayes.

Hayes adding that the U.S. was not to be outdone.

"(It) began construction in 2013," Hayes said, "And we have just completed, as of last week, our final milestone for the project."

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The U.S. Department of Energy invested more than a billion dollars, and five other laboratories collaborated in its creation.

The buzz over the machine has some of the brightest minds from around the world lining up to be able to take advantage of the incredible technology.

"We bring in the international community, its global efforts to drive science forward," Kling said.

The unveiling of LCLS-II is just a beginning.

"There's still a lot of work to be done to make it work really well and extract every little bit out have a machine that you can," said, Axel Brachman LCLS-II technical director.

The first researchers will begin using LCLS-II for projects in the coming months.

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