Mapping a Solid's Interatomic Potential with X-rays

Experiment at SLAC

To time-stamp the arrival of each x-ray pulse, researchers use an electro-optic crystal (green) placed next to the electron beam (white) in the linear accelerator just before the beam produces x-rays. A laser (red) probes changes in the crystal to measure the exact time the beam passed by. (Credit: J. C. Castagna/SLAC)

Picking a relatively simple system, SLAC scientists and their collaborators from DESY and other institutes used advanced tools to see the very first instants of change in a solid brought to the edge of melting. Their results appeared in Science. (...SLAC Press Release)

The experiments combined stroboscopic techniques that use a high-brightness linear electron accelerator–based x-ray source with pulse-by-pulse timing reconstruction for femtosecond resolution, allowing quantitative characterization of the interatomic potential energy surface of the highly excited solid. (...Science Article)

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