Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Jefferson Lab free-electron laser upgrade could induce completely new phenomena in materials

04.07.2002


What questions will it answer; what opportunities will it offer?



History doesn’t record the moment when fully conscious humans asked the first question. The incessant push of human curiosity has nevertheless changed the world. Even so, despite the seemingly inexorable march of science and technology into the current century, questions don’t seem in short supply. Gwyn Williams, basic research program manager for Jefferson Lab’s Free-Electron Laser (FEL), suspects some important answers may be forthcoming as a result of the FEL upgrade currently underway.

"The FEL is such a powerful light source that it induces completely new phenomena in materials," Williams says. "All kinds of unexpected properties emerge. Creating carbon nanotubes [for electronics and super-strong structures] comes as a result of exciting graphite, for instance. This upgrade gives us a window with a whole new view. We’re beginning to truly understand how the world works at the level of a single atom."


Should such an enhanced understanding emerge, scientists and engineers could custom-design materials atom by atom. This prospect, embraced by those in the field known as nanotechnology, could begin a large-scale products revolution unprecedented in human history. First, however, researchers must significantly deepen their understanding of the submicroscopic. Williams points out that because of its power and precision, FEL light can help do just that, illuminating these smallest of realms: a kind of ultra-fast camera that will freeze-frame even the most complex physical or chemical reactions.

With the exception of density, a property of matter constrained and described by the nucleus within atoms, the physical properties of all materials are primarily determined by the way electrons act. Everyday technology, from lamps to laptops, is controlled by the behavior and flow of electrons, and is manifested in such properties as hardness, conductivity and materials-energy flow. Observing specific electron behavior, however, is difficult. Scientists who conduct such observations need an intense light source — and now have one, in the form of the FEL.

FEL research falls into three broad categories: photo-induced chemistry, biology and materials. Before beginning the upgrade, some 20 formal proposals had been made for FEL-focused research. Seventeen of these proposals were given FEL beam time before the FEL shutdown in November. These will be prioritized and will carry forward once the upgrade is complete.

Among the areas under investigation will be the function of protein molecules within human cells as well as the mechanisms that determine and degrade materials purity, such as the silicon that comprises many computer components. Scientists will also study the effects of new surface compounds, produced when metals bathed in nitrogen are exposed to FEL light, and explore novel areas such as "spintronics," which concerns the properties of next generation semiconductor designs that optimize performance using newly discovered properties of electrons.

The addition of ultraviolet-light (UV) capability will further augment the FEL’s utility by enabling experiments that assess the nature and extent of the human health risk arising from increased ultraviolet light. Further, because of the nature of its construction and operation, the FEL accelerator’s electron beam can produce light with a frequency in the range of thousands of trillions of cycles per second. This "terahertz" capacity could conceivably lead to imagers that could quickly detect biological agents, such as anthrax, and hunt for concealed land mines.

"As scientists and as people, we want to improve the quality of life," Williams says. "This machine, already the most powerful in the world, is getting even better. It should enable us to make important progress in the next several years."


###

Linda Ware | EurekAlert!

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht K-State study reveals asymmetry in spin directions of galaxies
03.06.2020 | Kansas State University

nachricht The cascade to criticality
03.06.2020 | ETH Zurich Department of Physics

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Small Protein, Big Impact

In meningococci, the RNA-binding protein ProQ plays a major role. Together with RNA molecules, it regulates processes that are important for pathogenic properties of the bacteria.

Meningococci are bacteria that can cause life-threatening meningitis and sepsis. These pathogens use a small protein with a large impact: The RNA-binding...

Im Focus: K-State study reveals asymmetry in spin directions of galaxies

Research also suggests the early universe could have been spinning

An analysis of more than 200,000 spiral galaxies has revealed unexpected links between spin directions of galaxies, and the structure formed by these links...

Im Focus: New measurement exacerbates old problem

Two prominent X-ray emission lines of highly charged iron have puzzled astrophysicists for decades: their measured and calculated brightness ratios always disagree. This hinders good determinations of plasma temperatures and densities. New, careful high-precision measurements, together with top-level calculations now exclude all hitherto proposed explanations for this discrepancy, and thus deepen the problem.

Hot astrophysical plasmas fill the intergalactic space, and brightly shine in stellar coronae, active galactic nuclei, and supernova remnants. They contain...

Im Focus: Biotechnology: Triggered by light, a novel way to switch on an enzyme

In living cells, enzymes drive biochemical metabolic processes enabling reactions to take place efficiently. It is this very ability which allows them to be used as catalysts in biotechnology, for example to create chemical products such as pharmaceutics. Researchers now identified an enzyme that, when illuminated with blue light, becomes catalytically active and initiates a reaction that was previously unknown in enzymatics. The study was published in "Nature Communications".

Enzymes: they are the central drivers for biochemical metabolic processes in every living cell, enabling reactions to take place efficiently. It is this very...

Im Focus: New double-contrast technique picks up small tumors on MRI

Early detection of tumors is extremely important in treating cancer. A new technique developed by researchers at the University of California, Davis offers a significant advance in using magnetic resonance imaging to pick out even very small tumors from normal tissue. The work is published May 25 in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

researchers at the University of California, Davis offers a significant advance in using magnetic resonance imaging to pick out even very small tumors from...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Dresden Nexus Conference 2020: Same Time, Virtual Format, Registration Opened

19.05.2020 | Event News

Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium AWK'21 will take place on June 10 and 11, 2021

07.04.2020 | Event News

International Coral Reef Symposium in Bremen Postponed by a Year

06.04.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers at Mainz University develop a sustainable method for extracting vanillin from wood processing waste

04.06.2020 | Life Sciences

A storage battery for the entire world

04.06.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering

A remote control for neurons

04.06.2020 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>