September 25, 2023

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California’s updated linear accelerator arrives at first light

California’s updated linear accelerator arrives at first light

Engineers who have been working on the world’s most powerful X-ray laser for more than a decade have finally captured the first light using this instrument, meaning science with the newly activated machine is almost upon us.

The laser is Linac (short for linear accelerator) Coherent Light Source-II, or LCLS-II, and will be used to produce high-energy X-rays used to look at the smallest and most subtle machinations of matter and objects. Their interactions. Gizmodo made it Complete breakdown of LCLS last year And you can check Pictures from inside the accelerator structure here.

LCLS-II will generate one million X-ray pulses per second, a huge improvement over the original LCLS 120 beats per second. The new X-rays will be 10,000 times brighter than those generated by its predecessor It will literally shed light on phenomena that cannot be observed with the original machine.

“Now that there are a lot more photons, there are a lot more X-rays that can be used in science,” Andrew Burrell, associate laboratory director at the Accelerator Directorate, said. He told Gizmodo in the fall of 2021. “If you were collecting data…it would take a long time at 120 rounds per second. But at 1 million rounds per second, it doesn’t take any time at all.

What is X-ray free electron laser or XFEL?

“The light from SLAC’s LCLS-II will illuminate the smallest and fastest phenomena in the universe and lead to major discoveries in disciplines ranging from human health to quantum materials science,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm, in a statement issued by SLAC. “This upgrade to the most powerful X-ray laser in existence keeps the United States at the forefront of X-ray science, providing a window into how our world works at the atomic level.”

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The two-mile-long accelerator is part of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, located below Menlo Park, California, where for 14 years it has produced X-rays that scientists can then use to look at everything from the hardest metals to photosynthesis. For the billion-dollar LCLS-II, engineers had to build a cooling station and cool the linear accelerator to -456 degrees Fahrenheit (-271 degreesx Celsius).

“I’ve worked on LCLS projects for 17 years. I worked on the first, saw the second from cradle to grave, and started the third,” said Greg Hayes, LCLS-II project manager, in a video call with Gizmodo. . It’s huge for me. What SLAC and the Department of Energy are providing here is a tool that will be used in science for two or three decades.

The nearly two-mile-long accelerator building at SLAC.

The nearly two-mile-long accelerator building at SLAC.
picture: Olivier Bonin/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Eric Fauve, Refrigeration Plant Manager, He told Gizmodo in 2021 That first light was expected to be in the fall of 2022. But as always, schedules have changed. In March, strong winds knocked down trees on the SLAC campus, knocking out power to the linear accelerator for three days. The throttle is heated It needs to be cooled back to very cold temperatures. The wind event ultimately cost the team five months.

Achieving first light means that SLAC’s LCLS-II teams have demonstrated the X-ray parameters needed to complete the project. No scientific research has yet been conducted with LCLS-II — the first users of the upgraded accelerator will arrive in November — and the next two months will be filled with final checks to ensure the upgraded accelerator is ready for science. Final operation of LCLS-II will continue over the next two years.

But buckle up. Whether you’re interested in movies of molecules or improving the efficiency of phone batteries, the future of science and technologyHappening now, under a hill in Menlo Park.

more: I walked inside America’s newest particle accelerator