Direct Current Podcast: LCLS-II: Brighter, Faster, Smaller

Stretching nearly two miles under a freeway in Palo Alto, CA, the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) is a massive X-ray laser with the power to create slow-motion “movies” of molecules in motion. SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory uses the LCLS to take X-ray snapshots of atoms and molecules at work, providing atomic resolution detail on ultrafast timescales to reveal fundamental processes in materials, technology and living things.

With over 13,000 scientific user visits in its first 10 years of operation, researchers from around the world have conducted groundbreaking experiments in fields as diverse as chemical catalysis, human health, quantum materials science, and the physics of planetary formation. LCLS currently delivers 120 X-ray pulses per second, each one lasting just quadrillionths of a second, or “femtoseconds”—a timescale at which the motion of atoms can be seen and tracked.

This movie introduces LCLS-II, a future light source at SLAC. It will generate over 8,000 times more light pulses per second than today’s most powerful X-ray laser, LCLS, and produce an almost continuous X-ray beam that on average will be 10,000 times brighter. These unrivaled capabilities will help researchers address a number of grand challenges in science by capturing detailed snapshots of rapid processes that are beyond the reach of other light sources.

A decade-long project to boost the performance of the LCLS is underway at SLAC. Referred to as “LCLS-II,” the upgrade will provide a major jump in capability – moving from 120 pulses per second to 1 million pulses per second. The unique capabilities of LCLS-II will yield a host of discoveries to advance technology, new energy solutions and our quality of life.

LCLS-II will add a superconducting accelerator, occupying one-third of SLAC’s original 2-mile-long linear accelerator tunnel, which will generate an almost continuous X-ray laser beam. In addition to the new accelerator, LCLS-II requires a number of other cutting-edge components, including a new electron source, a powerful cooling plant that produces refrigerant for the accelerator, and two new undulators to generate X-rays.