News Center

Putting a spin on light and atoms

Some of the most sensitive devices for detecting magnetic fields use light to put a spin on atoms and then measure the spin orientation. Now a team from Berkeley Lab, UC Berkeley, and the Vavilov State Optical Institute in Russia has achieved a remarkable technical advance with this kind of magnetometer, an advance that also has potential for improving atomic clocks, quantum memory devices, and a range of other scientific gadgets that depend on measuring spinning atoms with light.

For the First Time Ever, Scientists Watch an Atom’s Electrons Moving in Real Time

Using pulses of laser light measuring mere quintillionths of a second, an international team of scientists has probed the motion of an atom’s outermost electrons in real time. Their methods promise a broad new way to examine how atoms in physical, biological, and chemical systems bond with other atoms to form molecules or crystal structures, and how these bonds break and reform during chemical reactions.

Testing the Best-Yet Theory of Nature

With a confidence level of 100 billion to one, the most sensitive test yet shows that the spin-statistics theorem, one of the pillars of modern physics, really works: bosons and fermions are different.

Catching Electrons in the Act

Understanding how to create artificial photosynthesis, or tough, flexible high-temperature superconductors, or better solar cells, or a myriad other advances, will only be possible when we have the ability to image electrons by freezing time within a few quintillionths of a second. A leader in attosecond science tells how it’s done.

Light Controls Matter, Matter Controls X-Rays

A team of scientists working at the Advanced Light Source’s femtosecond beamline 6.0.2 have taken the first step toward controlling how matter interacts with x-rays, shaping x-ray pulses with other x-ray pulses, and eventually directing the paths chemical reactions can take.

Accelerators and Light Sources of Tomorrow

Accelerators are far from achieving the highest energies their builders aspire to, but size and cost may limit the kinds of facilities funding agencies can support. In the future, new kinds of machines will be needed to make further progress. Perhaps the most promising is the laser plasma accelerator. Berkeley Lab’s BELLA project is the most advanced laser wakefield accelerator now under development.

Accelerators and Light Sources of Tomorrow

From their humble beginnings as offshoots of the ordinary electric light bulb, particle accelerators have evolved in surprising directions. Among the most productive and promising developments have been light sources, first in the form of electron storage rings — of which the Advanced Light Source is the world’s premier source of soft x-rays — and increasingly as versatile and sophisticated free electron lasers, the next generation of light sources now being studied at Berkeley Lab.

Berkeley Lab’s Wim Leemans Wins 2009 E. O. Lawrence Award

Wim Leemans is one of six 2009 recipients of the U.S. Department of Energy’s highest honor, the E. O. Lawrence Award, for his pioneering research with laser wakefield accelerators.

On the Road to Fusion Energy, an Accelerator to Study Warm Dense Matter

Warm dense matter exists in the cores of gas giant planets and the preliminary stages of nuclear fusion, among other inaccessible places. With an accelerator built at Berkeley Lab by physicists and engineers in the Heavy Ion Fusion Science Virtual National Laboratory, a collaboration of Berkeley Lab, Livermore, and Princeton, scientists will soon be able to study it in the laboratory.

Gunning for Free Electrons

Tomorrow’s free electron lasers will use superconducting linear accelerators to accelerate a million or more electron bunches a second. Key to high brightness and high repetition rates is the accelerator’s electron injector. Berkeley Lab scientists are building a revolutionary injector prototype of the kind the new generation of light sources will require.