Chinese scientists have successfully taken a novel approach to obtain free-electron lasing (FEL) and such an approach may realize the production and popularization of low-cost, table-top FEL devices that may bring breakthrough in multiple disciplines.
It was the first time that researchers have been able to obtain the FELbased on the laser wakefield electron accelerator.
A paper about the research result by Shanghai Institute of Optics and Fine Mechanics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, after nearly a decade’s effort was published as the cover story of the United Kingdom-based journal Nature on Thursday.
X-ray FEL can be used to detect the internal dynamic structure of matters and study the interaction process of light with atoms, molecules and condensed matters, which may lead to breakthroughs in diverse disciplines, such as physics, chemistry, structural biology, medicine, materials, energy and environment.
“The features of FEL, including its super high resolution rates regarding time and space and super strong peak brightness, makes it possible to realize three-dimensional, multimodal imaging of matters with ultra-high precision,” said Wang Wentao, a professor of the institute and a co-first author of the paper.
“The application of the potential technology is likely to immensely expand human’s understanding of the mystery of life and the revolution of living things,” he said.
Experts explained that there are currently eight FEL facilities in operation in the world but the size of the facilities range from 300 meters to 3.4 km, but that technology with the radio frequency electron accelerator fails to develop small-size FEL facilities that can be popularized.
“We proved the feasibility of the new technical route with the laser electron accelerator with ultra-high acceleration capability, and it downsized the facility size from kilometer level to 12 meters,” said Leng Yuxin, deputy director of the institute.
Researchers raised an example of potential future application brought by the small-sized FEL facilities. Even if a patient undergoing X-ray imaging moves quickly at the speed of light, a machine with the technology can still produce an imaging with impressively high resolution.