Transmuting Light Into X-rays

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Science  29 May 1998:
Vol. 280, Issue 5368, pp. 1348
DOI: 10.1126/science.280.5368.1348a

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Physicists can generate photons in the x-ray range by using a process called harmonic conversion, in which a laser beam is passed through a gas. But it is horribly inefficient, in part because some of the x-rays generated are out of phase and tend to cancel each other out. Now, on page 1412, researchers report using a precisely machined glass tube as a "waveguide" to equalize the speed of the laser light and the x-rays in the gas, which results in a more coherent x-ray beam. The new technique could ultimately give researchers the ability to peer into living cells or catch the swift dances of molecules during a chemical reaction.