Menlo Park, CA--On Monday, August 16, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu dedicated the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), the world's first and most powerful X-ray laser, at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. "The LCLS shows what the scientific workforce of our nation, in cooperation with our international partners, is capable of achieving," said Secretary Chu. "Pioneering research will remain critical if the U.S. is to stay a global leader when it comes to innovation and competitiveness."
Stanford University President John Hennessy spoke alongside Secretary Chu and other guests, including U.S. representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) and Mike Honda (D-San Jose). "I'm struck by the many accomplishments of SLAC and the many ways the researchers here exemplify the pioneering tradition for which Stanford is known," Hennessy said. "For almost half a century, SLAC has been adventurous in its thinking, boldly launching new efforts in its search for knowledge. We're privileged to have this world-class research facility here at our university."
The LCLS promises to revolutionize our view of the atomic world as it performs basic scientific research and drives applications in energy and environmental sciences, drug development, and materials engineering. It is able to view matter on a scale of individual atoms, and on time scales fast enough to see atomic motion and changes in the chemical bonds between them, effectively making stop-motion movies of the basic processes of matter and life for the first time.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided $53.6 million to accelerate the construction of scientific instruments for the LCLS and to develop an additional instrument. Overall, the LCLS is a $420 million project funded by the DOE Office of Science with construction led by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (a participating institution in a recent $122 million solar-energy award) in partnership with Argonne National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Other national laboratories and universities provided significant support and components of the machine during the development of the LCLS.
These early results have imaged bacteria and parts of the photosynthetic system found in plants. They have also stripped atoms such as neon completely bare of their electrons, from the inside out for the first time, which is made possible due to the high energy X-rays. Current and future experiments are investigating more complicated molecules and beginning to piece together the first movies of atomic dynamics in action.