World’s Most Powerful X-ray Laser Beam Creates ‘Molecular Black Hole’

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World’s Most Powerful X-ray Laser Beam Creates ‘Molecular Black Hole’

Scientists have blast electrons out of one atom by means of powerful x-rays, leaving a void like a black hole.

Scientists from SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory were surprised when they shot the world’s most powerful x-ray laser on a small molecule.

A few laser pulls took out almost everything inside out, causing a void to drain into electrons from the rest of the molecule, such as the black hole gobbling a spiral disk of matter.

“This enhancement is driven by ultrafast charge transfer within the molecule, which refills the core holes that are created in the heavy atom, providing further targets for inner-shell ionization and resulting in the emission of more than 50 electrons during the X-ray pulse. Our results demonstrate that efficient modelling of X-ray-driven processes in complex systems at ultrahigh intensities is feasible,” write Tais Gorkhover in the scientific journal Nature.

X-ray pulse

“They are about one hundred times heavier than what you would get if you target the sunlight that touches the surface of the Earth on a miniature,” said LCLS employee scientist and co-author Sebastien Boutet.

The scientists used special mirrors so that they could focus an X-ray at a spot of 100 nanometers in diameter, a thousand times smaller than the width of a human hair.

Future

“We think the effect was even more important in the larger molecule than in the smaller one, but we don’t know how to quantify it yet,” Rudenko said.

This discovery must still be thoroughly investigated. Because the researchers can not figure out where it stopped, there is a chance that they do not know how to stop.

“We estimate that more than 60 electrons were kicked out, but we don’t actually know where it stopped because we could not detect all the fragments that flew off as the molecule fell apart to see how many electrons were missing. This is one of the open questions we need to study.”

SLAC is a multi-program laboratory exploring frontier questions in photon science, astrophysics, particle physics, and accelerator research. We are definitely going to hear more about this.

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Heathcliff
Heathcliff Spencer Peters is an impartial and independent investigative journalist whose stories have appeared in The Sun, Express, Dailymail, nationwide Italian and Spanish television, and over 10 countries.