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Physics@Veldhoven

Prof. Margaret Murnane, Physics, fellow, JILA, University of Colorado, Boulder

KMLabs co-founder Murnane's lecture is about tabletop X-ray lasers. Ever since the invention of the laser, 50 years ago, researchers have also tried to develop lasers for X-rays. The aim is to better concentrate and direct X-rays in the same way as a normal laser does that with visible light. Murnane describes how the search for a practical tabletop X-ray laser has proceeded and how physicists have learned to manipulate nature at the quantum level during this quest.

Abstract: Ever since the invention of the laser over 50 years ago, scientists have been striving to create an X-ray version of the laser. The x-ray sources we currently use in medicine, security screening, and science are in essence the same x-ray light bulb source that Röntgen discovered in 1895. In the same way that visible lasers can concentrate light energy far better than a light bulb, a directed beam of X-rays would have many useful applications in science and technology. The problem was that until recently, we needed ridiculously high power levels to make an x-ray laser.

The first successful X-ray laser experiments were, in fact, powered by nuclear detonations as part of the “star wars” program in the 1980s. To make a practical, tabletop-scale, X-ray laser source required taking a very different approach that involves transforming a beam of light from a visible laser into a beam of X-rays. The story behind how this happened is surprising and beautiful, highlighting how powerful our ability is to manipulate nature at a quantum level. Along the way, we also learned to generate the shortest strobe light in existence - fast enough to capture even the fleeting dance of electrons in the nanoworld. This new capability shows promise for next-generation electronics, data and energy storage devices, and future medical diagnostics.

About the video: Physics@Veldhoven is a large congress that provides a topical overview of physics in the Netherlands. It is organised by NWO, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research , and takes place each year in January. Traditionally, young researchers are given the chance to present themselves and their work alongside renowned names from the Dutch and international physics community. The programme covers Light and matter, Atomic, molecular and optical physics, Nanoscience and nanotechnology, Statistical physics and Soft condensed matter, Surfaces and interfaces, Physics of fluids, Subatomic physics, Plasma and fusion physics, and Strongly correlated systems.

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