A dense sheet of electrons accelerated to close to the speed of light can act as a tuneable mirror that can generate bursts of laser-like radiation in the short wavelength range via reflection.
A laser pulse (red, bottom), liberates electrons (green) from the carbon atoms of a nanometer-thin foil and accelerates them to close to the speed of light. An infrared light pulse impinges on the electron layer from the opposite direction and reflects off the electron mirror as a light burst in the extreme ultraviolet with a duration of only a few hundred attoseconds. Picture: Thorsten Naeser
A team of physicists from the Max-Planck-Institute of Quantum Optics (MPQ) in Garching, the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) München, the Queens University Belfast (QUB) and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) near Oxford created such a mirror in a recent experiment. The scientists used an intense laser pulse to accelerate a dense sheet of electrons from a nanometre-thin foil to close to the speed of light and reflected a counter-propagating laser pulse from this relativistic mirror.With this experiment, the physicists managed to carry out a Gedankenexperiment (thought experiment) formulated in 1905 by Albert Einstein stating that the reflection from a mirror moving close to the speed of light could in principle result in bright light pulses in the short wavelength range. The researchers report on their results in Nature Communications, 23. April, 2013.
Dr. Olivia Meyer-Streng | Max-Planck-Institut
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