Volume 2 Issue 12, December 2006

Volume 2 Issue 12

Free-electron lasers are an exciting development for fields ranging from structural biology to nanotechnology. These lasers produce an intense and extremely short burst of X-rays, which could enable the structure of individual organic molecules to be collected without the need to first form them into a crystal (as is the case in conventional X-ray analysis). But the intensity of these pulses is such that they obliterate any sample they irradiate. In this issue, Henry Chapman, Janos Hajdu and colleagues report a proof-of-principle of a technique that reconstructs the image of a sample using scattered X-rays at the beginning of a pulse. Using a single 25-femtosecond soft X-ray pulse generated by the recently completed FLASH free-electron laser, they imaged two micrometre-sized stick figures patterned into a silicon nitride film — just moments before it evaporated at a temperature of 60,000 K.

Letter p839 | News and Views p799





Research Highlights

News and Views

  • News & Views |

    An ultrafast diffractive imaging technique that reconstructs an object's structure from a single short X-ray pulse is an important step towards the superlative spatial and temporal resolution promised by next-generation free-electron lasers.

    • Janos Kirz
  • News & Views |

    Quantum networks could permit secure communication over large distances and, eventually, quantum computing with photons. One of the basic building blocks has now been put in place.

    • Vladan Vuletic
  • News & Views |

    Strongly correlated systems are difficult to control or even probe at the level of individual interacting elements. Engineered composites of optical cavities, few-level atoms, and laser light could enable greater insight into their behaviour.

    • Fabrizio Illuminati
  • News & Views |

    Quantum information is an active area of physics, but is it also one of long-lasting significance? Judging by the mere elegance of a new approach for handling imperfections in quantum registers, the answer must be 'yes'.

    • Andrew Steane
  • News & Views |

    Electron spins confined within quantum dots are potential qubits for quantum information processing. But how to couple the dots? Optical probing of spherical structures that contain two concentric coupled quantum dots leads the way.

    • Guido Burkard
  • News & Views |

    The pairing of electrons in high-temperature superconductors is anisotropic. Measurements now reveal their scattering to bear the same anisotropy, providing insights into the nature of the normal state and the origin of superconductivity.

    • Louis Taillefer