Consensus Study Report
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018.
The laser has revolutionized many areas of science and society, providing bright and versatile light sources that transform the ways we investigate science and enables trillions of dollars of commerce. Now a second laser revolution is underway with pulsed petawatt-class lasers (1 petawatt: 1 million billion watts) that deliver nearly 100 times the total world’s power concentrated into a pulse that lasts less than one-trillionth of a second. Such light sources create unique, extreme laboratory conditions that can accelerate and collide intense beams of elementary particles, drive nuclear reactions, heat matter to conditions found in stars, or even create matter out of the empty vacuum.
Rev. Mod. Phys. 88, 015007 – Published 9 March 2016
A new scientific frontier opened in 2009 with the start of operations of the world’s first x-ray free-electron laser (FEL), the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. LCLS provides femtosecond pulses of x rays (270 eV to 11.2 keV) with very high peak brightness to access new domains of ultrafast x-ray science. This article presents the fundamental FEL physics and outlines the LCLS source characteristics along with the experimental challenges, strategies, and instrumentation that accompany this novel type of x-ray source. The main part of the article reviews the scientific achievements since the inception of LCLS in the five primary areas it serves: atomic, molecular, and optical physics; condensed matter physics; matter in extreme conditions; chemistry and soft matter, and biology.