The SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has unveiled the world’s most powerful X-ray laser, known as the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) II. With a beam 10,000 times brighter than its predecessor, this groundbreaking technology promises to revolutionize research across scientific disciplines.
Capabilities to Reveal Atomic-Scale Dynamics
The LCLS II generates rapid X-ray flashes at a quadruple rate and more than 10 times the brightness of the original LCLS laser. This will allow scientists to capture ultrafast processes and molecular interactions at the scale of electrons in unprecedented detail. The laser’s advanced capabilities provide opportunities to study quantum events, chemical reactions, biological structures, and more at a new benchmark of resolution and precision.
“With this incredible laser, we will have sharper vision to illuminate the smallest and fastest phenomena in nature,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm. “The LCLS II will drive new discoveries and innovations in human health, quantum information science, clean energy, and our understanding of the universe.”
Over a Decade in the Making
Operated by Stanford University for the Department of Energy, the LCLS II represents over a decade of development at a cost surpassing $1 billion. As an X-ray free-electron laser (XFEL), it propels electrons near light speed to generate its extraordinarily bright X-ray flashes. The system includes a superconducting accelerator, two specialized undulators, and an array of cryogenic modules.
Groundbreaking Applications Across Scientific Fields
Rare and powerful XFELs have already contributed critical insights, but the LCLS II far exceeds its predecessors. It empowers researchers to capture molecular movies on an attosecond timescale, enabling advances in physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, and materials science. Experiments will commence in the coming weeks, promising breakthroughs that could reshape our understanding of the natural world.
“The LCLS II will reveal new realms of science and usher in a new era of discovery,” said SLAC Director Mike Dunne. “Its world-leading capabilities will attract researchers from around the globe, leading to innovations that we can’t yet imagine.”