Research opportunity

Research scientists across the UK are to participate in the building and commissioning of a new kind of laser, which is currently under construction in the US.


Research scientists across the UK are to participate in the building and commissioning of a new kind of laser, which is currently under construction in the US.



The UK Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) intends to collaborate with the US Department of Energy’s Stanford Linear Accelerator Centre (SLAC) on the construction of its so-called Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), which is scheduled to begin operations in 2009.



The LCLS is a new machine for the production of hard X-rays. The X-rays are emitted in the form of a laser beam, with a brightness that is 10 billion times greater than that of any existing X-ray source on Earth.



Data produced from existing X-ray machines is widely used to help scientists study and understand the arrangement of atoms in materials such as metals, semiconductors, ceramics, polymers, catalysts, and plastics, and in biological molecules.


The structural knowledge obtained helps them understand the properties of matter such as mechanical strength, magnetism, transport of electrical currents and light, energy storage and catalysis.



For its part, Swindon-based STFC has agreed to contribute to the construction of an end-station of the LCLS, which is designed to look at matter under extreme conditions, such as material at extremes of temperature and density similar to those found in the interior of large planets. In return, research scientists from across the UK will have access to research time on the LCLS.



The agreement between the two organisations was formalised recently by a memorandum of understanding signed by Prof John Beddington, chief scientific adviser to the UK government, on a visit to SLAC.



Prof Justin Wark, chief scientist, STFC Photon Science Research Institute, said: ‘Our contribution to LCLS will also allow the UK to gain valuable experience in advance of the European X-ray Free Electron Laser (XFEL) in Hamburg, which is expected to begin operation in 2014.’