Sci­en­tists see the light to bet­ter X-rays

The Star Early Edition - - HEALTH -

SCI­EN­TISTS have cre­ated the bright­est light ever produced on Earth, shin­ing a bil­lion times stronger than the sur­face of the sun.

And, when they shone the “unimag­in­ably” bright beam, the re­searchers dis­cov­ered it could be used as a new type of X-ray, ca­pa­ble of tak­ing higher-res­o­lu­tion images than the tra­di­tional kind.

Th­ese could be used in hos­pi­tals but also by en­gi­neers and sci­en­tists and for se­cu­rity pur­poses.

When light strikes an ob­ject, it scat­ters – an ef­fect that en­ables our eyes to see it. Nor­mally an elec­tron scat­ters just one pho­ton of light at a time, but the light beam produced in the Univer­sity of Ne­braska-Lincoln’s Ex­treme Light Lab­o­ra­tory saw nearly 1 000 pho­tons scat­tered at a time.

Dr Don­ald Um­stadter, one of the re­searchers, said: “When we have this unimag­in­ably bright light, it turns out that the scat­ter­ing – this fun­da­men­tal thing that makes ev­ery­thing vis­i­ble – fun­da­men­tally changes in na­ture. It’s as if things ap­pear dif­fer­ently as you turn up the bright­ness of the light, which is not some­thing you nor­mally would ex­pe­ri­ence.

“(An ob­ject) nor­mally be­comes brighter but oth­er­wise it looks just like it did with a lower light level. But here, the light is chang­ing (the ob­ject’s) ap­pear­ance. The light is com­ing off at dif­fer­ent an­gles, with dif­fer­ent colours, de­pend­ing on how bright it is.”

He said the X-ray prop­er­ties of the light could be used to take three-di­men­sional images down to the nanoscopic scale. This could be used to find tiny tu­mours or mi­crofrac­tures that are missed by con­ven­tional X-rays, the re­searchers be­lieve.

It might also be use­ful as an ul­trafast cam­era to take images of chem­i­cal re­ac­tions or elec­trons as they move, among other po­ten­tial uses by sci­en­tists.

“There were many the­o­ries, for many years, that had never been tested in the lab be­cause we never had a bright enough light source to ac­tu­ally do the ex­per­i­ment,” Um­stadter said. – The In­de­pen­dent

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