Scientists create compact powerful laser potentially enabling future mobile X-rays

11/25/2013 - 00:00

Using a compact but powerful laser, a research team at UNL has developed a new way to generate synchrotron X-rays.

Although the high quality of synchrotron X-rays make them ideal for research ranging from the structure of matter to advanced medical images, access to the technology has been limited until now. Most traditional synchrotron X-ray devices are gigantic and costly, available only at a few sites around the world.


Ref: Quasi-monoenergetic and tunable X-rays from a laser-driven Compton light source. Nature Photonics (24 November 2013) | DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2013.314


The maximum achievable photon energy of compact, conventional, Compton-scattering X-ray sources is currently limited by the maximum permissible field gradient of conventional electron accelerators. An alternative compact Compton X-ray source architecture with no such limitation is based instead on a high-field-gradient laser–wakefield accelerator. In this case, a single high-power (100 TW) laser system generates intense laser pulses, which are used for both electron acceleration and scattering. Although such all-laser-based sources have been demonstrated to be bright and energetic in proof-of-principle experiments, to date they have lacked several important distinguishing characteristics of conventional Compton sources. We now report the experimental demonstration of all-laser-driven Compton X-rays that are both quasi-monoenergetic (~50% full-width at half-maximum) and tunable (~70 keV to >1 MeV). These performance improvements are highly beneficial for several important X-ray radiological applications.