PHYSICS: Downsizing Synchrotrons

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Science  04 Apr 2008:
Vol. 320, Issue 5872, pp. 21d-23d
DOI: 10.1126/science.320.5872.21d

Particle accelerators and synchrotron light sources qualify as big science, not just in the questions they strive to answer but also in their sheer physical size. At the same time, focusing petawatt laser pulses into gas samples can produce a plasma capable of generating and accelerating ions and electrons up to energies of several hundred MeV. Whereas such electrons might traditionally be directed down an undulator—a linear chicane of alternating magnetic fields—to produce synchrotron radiation, Kniep et al. show that the self-generated magnetic and electric fields present in the plasma channel can themselves be used as a miniature undulator. X-rays with energies up to 50 keV can thereby be produced, offering the possibility of reducing large-scale, national facility apparatus to instruments of more modest size. — ISO

Phys. Rev. Lett. 100, 105006 (2008).

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