New technique for resolution improvement in ultrafast processes

New technique for resolution improvement in ultrafast processes

Ultrafast science is pursued at the Technical University of Munich (TUM). An international consortium of scientists, initiated by Reinhard Kienberger, Professor of Laser and X-ray Physics several years ago, has made significant measurements in the femtosecond range at the U.S. Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC).

X-ray free-electron lasers (XFELs) have delivered intense, ultrashort X-ray pulses in the femtosecond range for over a decade. A femtosecond is equivalent to a millionth of a billionth of a second.

One of the most promising applications of XFELs is in biology, where researchers can capture images down to the atomic scale even before the radiation damage destroys the sample. In physics and chemistry, these X-rays can also shed light on the fastest processes occurring in nature with a shutter speed lasting only one femtosecond.

Measurements on miniscule timescales are particularly difficult

However, on these miniscule timescales, it is extremely difficult to synchronize the X-ray pulse that sparks a reaction in the sample on the one hand and the laser pulse which ‘observes’ it on the other. This problem is called timing jitter, and it is a major hurdle in ongoing efforts to perform time-resolved experiments at XFELs with ever-shorter resolution.

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Source: “Clocking the movement of electrons inside an atom”, TUM news