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Ultra-high Speed Plus Fine-tuned Light Equals a Whole New Look at Materials
SSRL Summer School Just Weeks Away

SLAC Today

Thursday - May 20, 2010

Ultra-high Speed Plus Fine-tuned Light Equals a Whole New Look at Materials

(Photo - Josh Turner in the SXR control room)
SXR instrument scientist Josh Turner troubleshoots issues in the SXR control room. (Photo by Marissa Cevallos.)

X-ray science is getting a boost from a marriage of technologies. Scientists already had instruments that can separate colors of light, but don't pulse fast. And they have fast-pulsing lasers that can't pick more than one color.

Enter the Soft X-Ray Materials Science instrument, or SXR, six weeks away from opening its hutch to experimenters. It can do both at once.

By combining the ultra-fast laser pulses from the Linac Coherent Light Source with a monochromator, which selects wavelengths from a large range of energy, scientists will soon have a tool to probe ultra-fast processes such as electrons shuffling in superconductors, and the magnetic machinations that enable computers to store data.

"It's really exciting," said instrument scientist Josh Turner. "We're the first instrument that can study materials using X-ray lasers that are tunable, pretty much by turning a knob."

Soft X-rays are lower frequency, and hence lower energy, than their "hard" X-ray cousins. Unlike hard X-rays—the kind airport security uses to check inside luggage—soft X-rays barely penetrate matter at all. That makes them well suited to study the surfaces of materials, which harder X-rays would bypass altogether. Because the soft X-ray band is where common elements like carbon and oxygen have atomic resonances, it's the best form of light to probe many common materials.

The instrument, the second along the LCLS, will use ultra-fast laser pulses to delve into the chemical action of molecules. Because the LCLS flashes last for only femtoseconds, about the amount of time it takes light to travel a tenth of a micrometer, the SXR instrument can watch chemical molecules break bonds and change their electron structures.  Read more...

SSRL Summer School Just Weeks Away

Attendees at the 2009 SSRL School on X-ray Spectropscopy Techniques in Environmental and Materials Sciences. (Photo: SSRL.)

The first of SLAC's many summer schools is right around the corner. The Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource School on Synchrotron X-ray Scattering Techniques in Materials and Environmental Science will take place at SLAC in less than two weeks, June 1–3. This workshop, aimed at graduate students and postdocs from a wide variety of disciplines, will introduce attendees to techniques such as X-ray scattering from thin films, surfaces, poorly crystalline materials and single molecular layers. During the three-day school, attendees can not only learn about how X-ray techniques are useful to study nano- and atomic-scale structures, but also develop a better working understanding of the SSRL beamlines. One-half day is devoted to data analysis.

Registration is still open, but sign up soon because spots are filling quickly. Online registration and additional information can be found at the SSRL SRXAS Web site.


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