Researchers created videos capturing ultrabright laser pulses vaporising water droplets

X-ray laser reveals first of a kind images of exploding water droplets

American researchers have created first of its kind videos of water droplets being vaporised by the world’s brightest X-ray laser.

The team from the US Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory used the extremely bright and fast flashes produced by the facility's laser to take atomic-level snapshots of water droplets being smashed by the powerful pulses.

As each individual X-ray pulse hit the water, a single image was recorded, timed from five-billionths of a second to one ten-thousandth of a second after the pulse. These images were then strung together to create the movies.

“Understanding the dynamics of these explosions will allow us to avoid their unwanted effects on samples,” said Claudiu Stan of Stanford PULSE Institute, a joint institute of Stanford University and SLAC. “It could also help us find new ways of using explosions caused by X-rays to trigger changes in samples and study matter under extreme conditions. These studies could help us better understand a wide range of phenomena in X-ray science and other applications.”

Liquids are a common way of bringing samples into the path of the X-ray beam for analysis at SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), a DOE Office of Science User Facility, and other X-ray lasers. At full power, ultra-bright X-rays can blow up samples within a tiny fraction of a second. Fortunately, in most cases researchers can take the data they need before the damage sets in.

The new study, published today in Nature Physics, shows in microscopic detail how the explosive interaction unfolds and provides clues as to how it could affect X-ray laser experiments.

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