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Desktop Synchrotron to Capture Molecular Action

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the hunny-i-shrunk-the-lab dept.

Science 46

Syncrhronymous Coward writes "Researchers led by Dino Jaroszynski of Strathclyde University have developed a desktop synchrotron particle accelerator that could soon freeze-frame the motion of atoms and molecules. Using a laser, some gas, and a row of magnets, his team put together a source of 'synchrotron light', which they say can be easily upgraded to produce intense, ultra-short pulses of X-rays — ideal for probing the intricate structure of many kinds of matter. Instead of a conventional ring of magnets and microwave cavities, they use an experimental technology called plasma wakefield acceleration."

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Not entirely new, but interesting. (4, Informative)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 6 years ago | (#21674563)

Re:Not entirely new, but interesting. (2, Interesting)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 6 years ago | (#21674639)

And the first "practical" mention I have found of this technique so far is from 1979 (if one has access to Phys. Rev. Letters Online): http://prola.aps.org/abstract/PRL/v43/i4/p267_1 [aps.org]

Re:Not entirely new, but interesting. (4, Informative)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 6 years ago | (#21674937)

Here [strath.ac.uk] is a brief outline of wakefield acceleration by Prof. Jaroszynski himself.

Re:Not entirely new, but interesting. (3, Informative)

Cyclotron_Boy (708254) | more than 6 years ago | (#21675543)

The poster should have checked his facts. The desktop synchrotron light source is NOT a synchrotron. A synchrotron is an alternating lattice strong focusing particle accelerator with 1 or more accelerating cavities. A wiggler using permanent magnets and a wakefield accelerator to generate the beam of electrons is a great desktop machine, but far from a synchrotron. The wiggler produces synchrotron light - but that's about the extent of it. Synchrotron light comes about from the interaction of charged particles and magnetic fields. Don't call it a desktop synchrotron. It's a desktop synchrotron light source.

Here's some reminders for those of us who haven't studied accelerator physics in a while:
Synchrotron [wikipedia.org] via wikipedia
Synchrotron light [wikipedia.org] also via wiki
Wigglers [wikipedia.org] produce synchrotron light without the synchrotron

Re:Not entirely new, but interesting. (1)

alexj33 (968322) | more than 6 years ago | (#21676979)

Right, just like in the academy.

Re:Not entirely new, but interesting. (1)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678993)

Another thing: There IS such a thing as a desktop synchroton. As least yesterday a coworker visited a company in stanford building one.

The principle: a small 50 MeV Synchrotron (fits easily on a desk including injector) plus a infrared laser.
The infraled laser is injected into the straight section, pulsed synchroneous to the electron bunches.

The magnetic field of the laser act as a "virtual undulator" with a lambda of only a few um. If you put this in the undulator equation, you can get hard x-rays (in their case 30keV) with decent brilliance out of such a weak electron beam (the fact that they have >10k undulator periods also makes it pretty monochromatic without an extra monochromator).

Re:Not entirely new, but interesting. (2, Informative)

Elky Elk (1179921) | more than 6 years ago | (#21684101)

Most synchrotron radiation sources aren't 'synchrotrons' they are electron storage rings, but its widely accepted in the user community that they're known as synchrotrons.

Re:Not entirely new, but interesting. (1)

necro81 (917438) | more than 6 years ago | (#21676275)

Does it have anything to do with this Wakefield Accelerator [wikipedia.org] ?

How'd they manage to shrink down and clone him, I wonder?

Re:Not entirely new, but interesting. (1)

Torvaun (1040898) | more than 6 years ago | (#21676561)

I'm just wondering why everyone else's desktops get to be cooler than mine. Geekiest thing I've got is a red Swingline stapler. Why do they get synchrotrons?

penis (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21674583)

suck it fuckstick

Hmm.. (3, Funny)

HadesInjustice (872477) | more than 6 years ago | (#21674593)

Do you know if they can somehow take a picture of the atoms while it is at a freeze frame? or will the photon cause the atoms to move again? I just need some pictures of real atoms to prove to my liberal art 'friends' that atoms are not just some random stuff we (chemist and chem e) thought up to confuse them.

Re:Hmm.. (1, Informative)

snl2587 (1177409) | more than 6 years ago | (#21674721)

The technology really is more for examining molecular structure (which will be very useful for protein folding research. Now they can track the reactions at each stage)....but then again, it depends on what you mean by "picture". Will the individual atoms be identifiable? Yes. Will they be in the same kind of pictures you take with your camera? Probably not.

Re:Hmm.. (1)

reverseengineer (580922) | more than 6 years ago | (#21675227)

If you want "pictures" of atoms, images from scanning tunneling microscopes should suffice. IBM's Almaden Research Center [ibm.com] has a nice gallery of micrographs- this one [ibm.com] is probably my favorite.

Re:Hmm.. (1)

Penguinshit (591885) | more than 6 years ago | (#21675781)

That's just a Quake map! Nice try...

Re:Hmm.. - freeze frame (1)

jfb2252 (1172123) | more than 6 years ago | (#21676341)

pulse length is ~10 fs or 3 microns at the speed of light. Since most of the stuff one looks at is at thermal velocities, this is certainly a macroscopic freeze frame. To look at steps of chemical reactions, sub-femtosecond pulses are desirable. Google "energy recovery linac" (ERL) for information on a mechanism for getting such short pulses. UK was hoping to build an ERL-based light source at Daresbury but the budget news out today http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/32163 [physicsworld.com] suggests this won't go ahead for a while.

My break... (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 6 years ago | (#21677549)

Do you know if they can somehow take a picture of the atoms while it is at a freeze frame? or will the photon cause the atoms to move again?

Yes and yes.

The burst of x-ray/gamma-ray photons will no doubt blast the molecules being observed into their component nuclei and electrons, which will scatter like billiard balls during the "break".

But it's a very SHORT flash. You get your "picture" of where they were when the flash hit, by the scattering of the incident massless photons, before the particles with rest-mass have a chance to go somewhere else.

It finally happened: (4, Funny)

Glowing Fish (155236) | more than 6 years ago | (#21674599)

2008 looks like it is finally going to be the year of the synchrotron on the desktop!

Re:It finally happened: (1)

heckler95 (1140369) | more than 6 years ago | (#21675137)

I read somewhere that this device can handle somewhere around 640,000 atoms at any given time with no plans for future expansion... 640K should be enough for anybody!

Re:It finally happened: (1)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 6 years ago | (#21686153)

I realise it was a joke, but you will never have synchrotrons on the desktop for the simple reason that it is easy to build cyclotrons of that size. The reason you use synchrotrons for larger particle accelerators is that it would be a hell trying to create a several tesla strong magnetic field over such a large area. For smaller accelerators you would either use a cyclotron ( if you want a continuous beam ), or as the article mentioned, a laser-plasma wakefield accelerator ( if you want high particle energy ).

Essentially the cool thing about using plasma wakefield accelerators is that you don't have to worry about dielectric breakdown. Traditional accelerators are limited to electric fields of about 1 MeV per meter since higher fields would ionise the dielectrics used. A wakefield accelerator uses plasma-waves induced by lasers to generate the electric field, and since plasma's are already ionised they are not limited in the same way.

The concept is quite simple, but I imagine the details get tricky. In particular, to use the electron beam for a FEL it needs to have a good beam quality and relatively uniform electron energy ( the output frequency depends on the electron energy, so if you want monochromatic light you probably want reasonably monoenergetic electrons ). I didn't realise wakefield accelerators could achieve a sufficiently high quality beem to power a FEL, so this is quite interesting.

but... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21674649)

will it run Linux ?

Plasma Wakefield acceleration (2, Funny)

charlesbakerharris (623282) | more than 6 years ago | (#21674703)

You can slow the atoms down as much as you want, and major league hitters still can't hit 'em.

Except Aaron Boone, dammit.

Re:Plasma Wakefield acceleration (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21675031)

beat me to it.

Never enough beamtime (4, Interesting)

dances with elks (863490) | more than 6 years ago | (#21674791)

IAASS (I am a synchrotron scientist). This looks like the ideal solution to the always crippling problem of never having enough beamtime. This will become especially bad in the UK over the next few years as the SRS closes but before Diamond has all its beamlines running. In my own area we like to combine the problems of not having much beamtime with all the problems of vacuum systems. I would love to have my own source at university with out having to moving everything for every experiment.

Re:Never enough beamtime ?new power source? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21678201)

Could this be a path toward SMALL SCALE implementation of the "energy amplifier" credited to Carlo Rubia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_amplifier [wikipedia.org] ?

Acording to the cited atical, a major engineering/cost challege in trying the Rubia's idea out in the real world is
the need for a particle accelerator to excite the process...

Even the Greens are starting to reconsider nuclear energy, and there is more Thorium (with, I read, less weapons potential) than Uranium.

Thanks for considering this layman's question!

Re:Never enough beamtime ?new power source? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21679025)

I doubt plasma wakefield accelerators will help the Energy Amplifier much. The EA needs a huge proton flux, a truly industrial-strength power. The point is that such a process is efficient only on a large scale.

cool! (1)

apodyopsis (1048476) | more than 6 years ago | (#21674835)

way cool! I know what I'm doing in my shed this Christmas!

and if my neighbors complain? well, I've have* a very powerful laser....

*(well maybe not, at £1-2m thats a little out of my fripperies budget, back to building the war robot then. shucks)

Meh... (2, Funny)

6Yankee (597075) | more than 6 years ago | (#21674969)

...I've got a real one [srs.ac.uk] in the next building! :)

Re:Meh... (1)

dances with elks (863490) | more than 6 years ago | (#21675453)

not for much longer though :(

and there will be a 1-3 year after the SRS is shut but before diamond is completely active with no soft x-ray beamlines in the UK

I've spent many an unhappy week at that damn place, I miss the Ring o' Bell though

Re:Meh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21675623)

No offence, but the SRS was/is a big pile of poo. Weak beam, abysmal accommodation and don't even start on the canteen. I've not got much hope that Diamond will be any better in the accommodation and canteen front and it's built in a bloody stupid place, at least the beam may be good. ESRF is the place to go, 2hr flight, good food and you can even go for a cycle round the ring (most of the way at least) at 4am when you are bored.

As much as I disliked Daresbury though I did love the Ring o' Bells. Great place when the beam died.

Re:Meh... (1)

6Yankee (597075) | more than 6 years ago | (#21675945)

Canteen - man, I hear you. When the works' cat (which has long since died) was around, there were days when it wouldn't touch the food they put out for it. And on the days when I didn't see it, I went veggie, just in case. :D

Re:Meh... (1)

dances with elks (863490) | more than 6 years ago | (#21676693)

My old boss once found 20p in his soup in that canteen, I thought he was doing a magic trick.

Didn't know the cat had died, I haven't been there in just over a year (thank God)

Won't fit. (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 6 years ago | (#21677725)

I've got a real one in the next building!

That one won't fit on a pistol grip - or even a tank-based mobile platform. What kind of raygun is that?

Fixed installation beam weapons might be OK for shooting down incoming stuff. But you need to go on the offense if you want to finish the war with a win.

B-)

Re:Won't fit. (1)

6Yankee (597075) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678587)

This is why all the modern synchrotrons are in round buildings - so you can jack them up on their sides and roll them into battle, all beamlines blazing...

Solar wind plasma physics in a kitchen sink (2, Informative)

OriginalArlen (726444) | more than 6 years ago | (#21675161)

On a slightly related note, here's the physics of supersonic solar plasma flows, the termination shock, the heliopause and Voyager, all demonstrated in your kitchen sink. Superb stuff courtesy of The Planetary Society [planetary.org] . "Really baked my noodle" - Satisfied customer.

Re:Solar wind plasma physics in a kitchen sink (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 6 years ago | (#21679293)

Only a Good Teacher(TM) could come up with something so simple, elegant, and informative.

Thanks for the link- that was very illustrative...and can be demonstrated safely at home by most of us!

Just one step closer... (2, Funny)

Tmack (593755) | more than 6 years ago | (#21675549)

...to backpack mounted unlicensed nuclear accelerators that emit proton beams.

tm

My thoughts exactly (1)

Kythe (4779) | more than 6 years ago | (#21676185)

Proton Packs are right around the corner.

Just don't cross the streams, of course.

A laser, some gas, and a row of magnets... (2, Funny)

Protometheus (1150367) | more than 6 years ago | (#21675583)

Did that sentence sound very MacGyver to anyone else?

Don't Cross The Streams! (1)

domatic (1128127) | more than 6 years ago | (#21676605)

I have an idea! We'll cross the streams!

(Ray groans) "...cross the streams!"

obligatory Monty Python quote (1)

mediocubano (801656) | more than 6 years ago | (#21677319)

Desktop Synchrotron? No thanks, but I've already got one.

Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21680039)

Good start for this guy. His paper shows spontaneous rather than SASE free electron laser (FEL) radiation (look it up). Gain is needed next. It's not desktop, it takes a full lab or two, but this is much cheaper than billion dollar synchrotrons like the Advnced Light Source. You guys should read more about this stuff. http://loasis.lbl.gov/ [lbl.gov]

This cries out for a Ghostbusters reference (1)

serutan (259622) | more than 6 years ago | (#21680229)

"Guess there's no point worrying about it now."
"Why worry? Each of us is wearing an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on his back."

It Doesn't Work (1)

airship (242862) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683637)

Reading this, I immediately set out to try to duplicate their setup. I lined up my keychain laser pointer with a couple of fridge magnets and ate some Taco Bell to give myself lots of gas, and I didn't see ONE synchrotroned particle!

Busted!

Moleculo... (1)

Mandovert (1140887) | more than 6 years ago | (#21683809)

The Molecular Man!

Wakefield acceleration (1)

Wesson (250639) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689558)

I'm not sure Wakefield [wikipedia.org] needs any acceleration; his knuckle is tricky enough as it is.
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