Research NewsPhysics

With Mirrors and Finesse, Labs Domesticate the X-ray Laser

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  05 Jul 1996:
Vol. 273, Issue 5271, pp. 32
DOI: 10.1126/science.273.5271.32


The first x-ray lasers, developed in the 1980s, were energized by nuclear explosions or jolts of light from giant glass lasers built for fusion experiments. But at a meeting 3 weeks ago in Lund, Sweden, investigators reported how those ungainly devices are now giving birth to bench-top x-ray lasers—practical tools for studying the dynamics of chemical reactions and the intricacies of living cells. To shrink their devices, investigators are substituting electric discharges and lower powered optical lasers for the brute-force pumping techniques of the first x-ray lasers. And they are boosting efficiency by reflecting the x-rays back and forth through the laser medium to extract more of its energy.