SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Post image for New X-ray laser at SLAC brings promise of never-before-seen views of nature

Construction has begun on a major upgrade to a unique X-ray laser at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park. The project will add a second X-ray laser beam that’s 10,000 times brighter, on average, than the first one and fires 8,000 times faster, up to a million pulses per second.

The project, known as LCLS-II, will greatly increase the power and capacity of SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) for experiments that sharpen our view of how nature works on the atomic level and on ultrafast timescales.

Mike Dunne_SLAC“LCLS-II will take X-ray science to the next level, opening the door to a whole new range of studies of the ultrafast and ultrasmall,” said LCLS Director Mike Dunne (picture, right). “This will tremendously advance our ability to develop transformative technologies of the future, including novel electronics, life-saving drugs and innovative energy solutions.”

Added SLAC Director Chi-Chang Kao: “Our lab has a long tradition of building and operating premier X-ray sources that help users from around the world pursue cutting-edge research in chemistry, materials science, biology and energy research. LCLS-II will keep the U.S. at the forefront of X-ray science.”

When LCLS opened six years ago as a DOE Office of Science User Facility, it was the first light source of its kind – a unique X-ray microscope that uses the brightest and fastest X-ray pulses ever made to provide unprecedented details of the atomic world.

Hundreds of scientists use LCLS each year to catch a glimpse of nature’s fundamental processes in unprecedented detail. Molecular movies reveal how chemical bonds form and break; ultrafast snapshots capture electric charges as they rapidly rearrange in materials and change their properties; and sharp 3-D images of disease-related proteins provide atomic-level details that could hold the key for discovering potential cures.

The new X-ray laser will work in parallel with the existing one, with each occupying one-third of SLAC’s two-mile-long linear accelerator tunnel. Together they will allow researchers to make observations over a wider energy range, capture detailed snapshots of rapid processes, probe delicate samples that are beyond the reach of other light sources and gather more data in less time, thus greatly increasing the number of experiments that can be performed at this pioneering facility.

Like the existing facility, LCLS-II will use electrons accelerated to nearly the speed of light to generate beams of extremely bright X-ray laser light. The electrons fly through a series of magnets, called an undulator, that forces them to travel a zigzag path and give off energy in the form of X-rays.

But the way those electrons are accelerated will be quite different, and give LCLS-II much different capabilities.

At present, electrons are accelerated down a copper pipe that operates at room temperature and allows the generation of 120 X-ray laser pulses per second.

For LCLS-II, crews will install a superconducting accelerator. It’s called “superconducting” because its niobium metal cavities conduct electricity with nearly zero loss when chilled to minus 456 degrees Fahrenheit. Accelerating electrons through a series of these cavities allows the generation of an almost continuous X-ray laser beam with pulses that are 10,000 times brighter, on average, than those of LCLS and arrive up to a million times per second.

Illustration of an electron beam traveling through a niobium cavity – a key component of SLAC’s future LCLS-II X-ray laser.

{ Be the first to comment }

Public can tour SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory twice a month beginning in April

Thumbnail image for Public can tour SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory twice a month beginning in April

Beginning in April, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park will offer free public tours, which last approximately 90 minutes and include a visit to the lab’s two-mile-long linear accelerator, now driving the world’s brightest X-ray source. Tours are offered twice a month, by registration only, which opens on the last Friday of the previous month. Registration […]

Click to read more →

Getting a tour of the new Science and User Support building at SLAC

Thumbnail image for Getting a tour of the new Science and User Support building at SLAC

We’ve been watching the new building at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory go up over the past year, and now that it’s complete, find it quite eye-catching, particularly as viewed going west on Sand Hill Road. Accompanied by InMenlo contributing photographer Irene Searles, we were given a tour of the first floor and second floor by […]

Click to read more →

SLAC’s Claudio Pellegrini receives Fermi Award at White House

Thumbnail image for SLAC’s Claudio Pellegrini receives Fermi Award at White House

President Obama welcomed SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory’s Claudio Pellegrini into the Oval Office yesterday morning (10/27) as a recipient of the Enrico Fermi Award, one of the highest honors the U.S. government can give to a scientist. Pellegrini, a visiting scientist and consulting professor at SLAC and distinguished professor emeritus at the University of California, Los […]

Click to read more →

Steady to a fault: How does SLAC’s particle accelerator survive in earthquake country?

Thumbnail image for Steady to a fault: How does SLAC’s particle accelerator survive in earthquake country?

Perhaps you’ve seen the move San Andreas in which a massive quake rocks northern California, toppling skyscrapers and propelling a massive tsunami toward the Golden Gate Bridge. [Or you may have felt the 4.0 quake overnight last night.] Just a kilometer from the San Andreas Fault in Menlo Park sits SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, home to a […]

Click to read more →

Building of world’s most powerful camera by SLAC in Menlo Park gets green light

Thumbnail image for Building of world’s most powerful camera by SLAC in Menlo Park gets green light

Plans for the construction of the world’s largest digital camera at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park have reached a major milestone. The 3,200-megapixel centerpiece of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), which will provide unprecedented details of the universe and help address some of its biggest mysteries, has received […]

Click to read more →

SLAC Director Emeritus and Nobelist Burton Richter to receive National Medal of Science

Thumbnail image for SLAC Director Emeritus and Nobelist Burton Richter to receive National Medal of Science

President Obama Friday (Oct. 3) named former SLAC Director and Nobel Prize winner Burton Richter as one of 10 recipients of the National Medal of Science, and also named eight recipients of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. The two awards are the nation’s highest honors for achievement and leadership in advancing the fields of […]

Click to read more →

SLAC scientists in Menlo Park take first dip into water’s mysterious “no-man’s land”

Thumbnail image for SLAC scientists in Menlo Park take first dip into water’s mysterious “no-man’s land”

Scientists at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park have made the first structural observations of liquid water at temperatures down to minus 51 degrees Fahrenheit, within an elusive “no-man’s land” where water’s strange properties are super-amplified. The research, made possible by SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) X-ray laser and reported June 18 […]

Click to read more →

Menlo Park Fire Protection District responds to two-alarm fire at SLAC last night

Thumbnail image for Menlo Park Fire Protection District responds to two-alarm fire at SLAC last night

A fire alarm last night at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park at 9:47 pm brought response from Menlo Park Fire Protection District Engine 6, which arrived to find heavy black smoke pouring from one of the structures. The Captain requested a full first alarm response on arrival. A second alarm at 10:02 pm brought in additional Menlo […]

Click to read more →

SLAC chemist Riti Sarangi ponders big and little scientific questions

Thumbnail image for SLAC chemist Riti Sarangi ponders big and little scientific questions

In many respects you could say SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory scientist Riti Sarangi grew up at the lab. From 2001 to 2007 she used the facility while pursuing a PhD in chemistry at Stanford, where she had come after completing her undergraduate studies in India. Her interest in science, though, was sparked early in life. “My […]

Click to read more →

Beamline scientist Apurva Mehta reminds us that SLAC is no longer about atom smashing

Thumbnail image for Beamline scientist Apurva Mehta reminds us that SLAC is no longer about atom smashing

Apurva Mehta, a material science physicist, came to SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park 17 years ago “to build a beam line” — one that is still up and running, he points out. “SLAC was the birthplace of synchrotron science in many respects,” he says. “That was certainly key to my decision to come here. All […]

Click to read more →