star light star bright
A million suns isn't cool. You know what's cool? A billion suns. Physicists from the University of Nebraska's aptly-named Extreme Light Laboratory have just made the brightest light ever produced on Earth, and it is one billion times brighter than the surface of the sun, Phys.org reports.
The super bright laser beam is helping researchers understand how light and matter interact. When light from a regular bulb or the sun strikes a surface, it "scatters," which is what allows us to see. In everyday circumstances, an electron scatters just a couple photons of light at a time, but with the University of Nebraska's laser, almost 1,000 photons scatter at once.
"It's as if things appear differently as you turn up the brightness of the light, which is not something you normally would experience," said the University of Nebraska's Donald Umstadter. "[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's coming off at different angles, with different colors, depending on how bright it is."
In one example, the scientists were able to create a high-resolution X-ray of a USB drive, photographing interior details that aren't able to be seen with regular X-rays. Understanding the phenomenon could help scientists find more sophisticated ways to "hunt for tumors or microfractures that elude conventional X-rays, map the molecular landscapes of nanoscopic materials now finding their way into semiconductor technology, or detect increasingly sophisticated threats at security checkpoints," Phys.org writes. "Atomic and molecular physicists could also employ the X-ray as a form of ultrafast camera to capture snapshots of electron motion or chemical reactions."
Read more about the Extreme Light Laboratory and its findings at Phys.org.