Laser physics

Lasers trigger X-rays efficiently

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Bombarding clouds of a noble gas with an intense UV laser emits X-ray pulses that could be useful for imaging applications.

Single atoms zapped by a UV laser emit bright X-rays, but to get such X-rays from a cloud of atoms, a longer-wavelength laser is needed. To maximize the intensity of the emitted X-rays, Tenio Popmintchev at the University of Colorado Boulder and his colleagues found UV wavelengths that elicit strong emissions over a wide range of frequencies from single atoms or ions and clouds of these particles. By carefully choosing a laser's colour and shaping a guide for the light, the team created intense X-ray pulses just 100 attoseconds long (1 attosecond is 1 × 10−18 seconds).

The technique produces light that could be powerful enough to probe the details of electron motion, the authors report.

Science 350, 12251231 (2015)

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