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Press Release 12-109
All the Colors of a High-Energy Rainbow, in a Tightly Focused Beam

Tabletop laser-like device can create multicolor beam of ultraviolet light, X-rays, and the wavelengths in between

Back to article | Note about images

Illustration showing an electron being ripped from an atom by a strong laser field.

This art represents an electron being ripped from an atom by a strong laser field, which stretches its quantum wave function over hundreds of atomic sizes. Just as electrons accelerated in an X-ray tube emit bremsstrahlung radiation, electrons accelerated by a laser can emit rainbows of coherent X-rays in a laser-like beam. X-ray light is "invisible to the human eye but is important for being able to 'see' the fine details and fastest motions of the nanoworld."

Credit: Tenio Popmintchev, JILA and University of Colorado at Boulder


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Margaret Murnane, Henry Kapteyn and Tenio Popmintchev--all of the NSF Engineering Research Center for Extreme Ultraviolet Science and Technology--describe their new technology for creating a laser-like beam of light that incorporates light from the UV, X-rays and all the wavelengths in between.

Credit: National Science Foundation

 

Image of a coherent, laser-like, X-ray beam as it impacts a surface.

This picture shows an image of a coherent (laser-like) X-ray beam as it impacts a surface. In contrast to the incoherent (light-bulb-like) light emitted in all directions from a Roentgen X-ray tube, the X-rays produced by high harmonic generation (HHG) emerge as well-directed, laser-like, beams.

Credit: Tenio Popmintchev, JILA and University of Colorado at Boulder


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Image of a hollow waveguide filled with high-pressure helium gas as X-ray beam is generated.

This image depicts the experimental setup used to create a coherent version of the Roentgen tube in the soft X-ray region of the spectrum. When a long-wavelength, femtosecond laser is focused into this hollow waveguide filled with high-pressure helium gas, part of the laser is converted into an ultrafast, laser-like, X-ray beam.

Credit: Tenio Popmintchev, JILA and University of Colorado at Boulder


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Illustration of the experimental setup.

Illustration of the experimental setup used to create a coherent version of the Roentgen tube in the soft X-ray region of the spectrum. When a long-wavelength femtosecond laser is focused into a hollow waveguide filled with high-pressure helium gas, part of the laser is converted into an ultra-fast, laser-like, X-ray beam. The extreme nonlinear laser-matter interaction generates a broad range of light wavelengths, spanning the electromagnetic spectrum from the ultraviolet (UV) to the X-ray region. The generated UV-to-X-ray light is "amplified" as it propagates through the gas medium since all the electromagnetic fields add up constructively.

Credit: Tenio Popmintchev and Brad Baxley, JILA and University of Colorado at Boulder


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Image showing a diffraction pattern created by the laser-like beam.

When a Young's double slit is illuminated by a coherent, laser-like, beam, light from each slit can interfere and form a diffraction pattern, due to constructive and destructive interferences between light transmitted through each slit. These interference (or diffraction) patterns show that the kiloelectron-volt (keV) high-harmonic beams are laser-like.

Credit: Tenio Popmintchev and Brad Baxley, JILA and University of Colorado at Boulder


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Cover of the June 8, 2012 issue of the journal Science.

The researchers' work is described in the June 8, 2012 issue of the journal Science.

Credit: Copyright AAAS 2012


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