[PAST EVENT] William Small Distinguished Lecture

March 28, 2014
4pm - 5pm
Small Hall, Room 110
300 Ukrop Way
Williamsburg, VA 23185Map this location
Ever since the invention of the laser over 50 years ago, scientists have been striving to create an x-ray version of the laser. The x-ray sources we currently use in medicine, security screening, and science are in essence the same x-ray light bulb source that Rontgen discovered in 1895. In the same way that visible lasers can concentrate light energy far better than a light bulb, a directed beam of x-rays would have many useful applications in science and technology. The problem was that until recently, we needed ridiculously high power levels to make an x-ray laser. The first successful x-ray laser experiments were, in fact, powered by nuclear detonations as as part of the star wars program in the 1980s. To make a practical, tabletop-scale, x-ray laser source required taking a very different approach that involves transforming a beam of light from a visible laser into a beam of x-rays. The story behind how this happened is surprising and beautiful, highlighting how powerful our ability is to manipulate nature at a quantum level. Along the way, we also learned to generate the shortest strobe light in existence - fast enough to capture even the fleeting dance of electrons in the nanoworld. This new capability shows promise for next-generation electronics, data and energy storage devices, and future medical diagnostics. (Popmintchev et al, Science 336, 1287 (2012))