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LCLS Launches User Science Today

The AMO instrument scientists with the first LCLS users in the instrument hutch. From left to right: Christoph Bostedt, Steve Southworth, Linda Young, John Bozek, Steve Pratt and Yuelin Li. (Photo by Brad Plummer.)

SLAC's Linac Coherent Light Source opened for business this morning, and the first user experiment is now underway. As the world's first hard X-ray laser, the LCLS offers scientists the ability to study the fundamental behavior of atoms and molecules on unprecedented length- and time scales.

"The LCLS is performing beyond our expectations," said newly appointed LCLS Deputy Director Uwe Bergmann. "These first experiments are starting a new era of science, one that many researchers around the world have eagerly awaited."

This first user run will continue through mid-December, with 11 groups traveling to SLAC to use the Atomic, Molecular and Optical science instrument—the first of the six LCLS instruments to come online.

This week's experiment, led by Argonne National Laboratory's Linda Young, will provide a better understanding of how materials absorb very high intensity X-rays, by stripping atoms of their electrons from the inside out.

"It's exciting to be here," said Young, who is writing about her experience online. "The LCLS instrument scientists and their team have done so much work to get to this point. I'm very optimistic for our experiment."

SLAC AMO instrument scientists John Bozek and Christoph Bostedt worked 12-hour shifts around the clock for the past months as they and their hardworking team—which includes engineers, physicists, controls experts, technicians and many others—tuned or "commissioned" the instrument. Bozek and Bostedt will now work in collaboration with Young and her team on this week's experiment.

"This is a significant milestone for LCLS, made possible by the hard work of many people. I am grateful and delighted that the entire lab pulled together to get us to the point where we can welcome our first users. Some users have helped during commissioning, and they can now call the shots," said LCLS Director Jo Stöhr. "This is also a good time to acknowledge the Department of Energy for their unwavering support. Let the science begin!"

Funded by the DOE Office of Science, the LCLS is a collaboration among several DOE National Laboratories, including SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Argonne, Lawrence Berkeley and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories; Cornell University and the University of California, Los Angeles. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory provided additional project management which helped make this project successful.

—Kelen Tuttle
SLAC Today, October 1, 2009