Stanford has been studying atoms using a super-bright x-ray laser called the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS). Now, the laser is being upgraded to be 10,000 times brighter, which will turn what is already the world’s most powerful x-ray laser into a bigger powerhouse that’s capable of a million pulses per second. Compared to the current laser’s 120 pulses per second output, this new version is over 8,000 times faster.
In order to accomplish this feat, the team needed a cold niobium-based superconducting accelerator cavity that reaches -456 degrees F (-271.111 C), allowing it to conduct electricity with absolutely no losses.
This upgrade by no means makes the first laser obsolete. In fact, using both laser beams in conjunction will allow coverage of a wider energy range, enabling scientists to study processes that either couldn’t be recorded before, or would have taken ages to examine in full. Studying these processes could eventually lead to important discoveries in the fields of medicine, electronics, and energy.
The upgrade is expected to reach completion by early 2020.