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Ångström: One Ångström is 10-10 meters, 1/10 of a nanometer. Atoms in molecules are separated by about 1 Ångström. Since the wavelength of LCLS x-rays are also in the range of 1 Ångström, the distribution of x-rays scattered by an atom is influenced by the placement of its neighbor atoms in a molecule. For this reason, x-ray scattering measurements provide information on the structure of a molecule.

The wavelength of an x-ray is directly connected with the quantum of energy that it can transfer to an atom if it is absorbed. The 1.5 - 15 ångström operating range of the LCLS corresponds to x-ray energies from 8 keV to 800 eV. This means that LCLS x-rays can kick inner (K- and L-) shell electrons out of most elements encountered in nature. Kicking out electrons is the primary mechanism by which the LCLS delivers heat to a sample.

electron There are about as many Ångströms in a centimeter as there are kilometers between the planet Venus and the sun.

Femtosecond: One femtosecond is 10-15 second. A time this short is impossible to visualize in terms of everyday experience, but it is a useful unit of time for describing atomic and molecular dynamics. It takes about 10 femtoseconds for a hydrogen atom to become attached to or detached from a molecule. Atoms heavier than hydrogen are more massive and move more slowly, taking a few hundred femtoseconds to enter or leave a binding site on a molecule. An electron bound to an atom can transit from one atomic orbital to another in less than a few femtoseconds. An atom or molecule in a gas or liquid will move about one angstrom in a few femtoseconds.

electron Light, which travels at 186,000 miles per second, moves no more than the thickness of a sheet of paper in 150 femtoseconds.

electron There are about as many femtoseconds in a minute as there are minutes in the entire history the universe.

Source: Office of Basic Energy Science

Self-Amplified Spontaneous Emission - SASE

An intense, highly collimated electron beam travels through an undulator magnet. The alternating north and south poles of the magnet force the electron beam to travel on an approximately sinusoidal trajectory, emitting synchrotron radiation as it goes.

The electron beam and this synchrotron radiation travelling with it are so intense that the electron motion is modified by the electromagnetic fields of its own emitted synchrotron light. Under the influence of both the undulator and its own synchrotron radiation, the electron beam begins to form micro-bunches, separated by a distance equal to the wavelength of the emitted radiation.

These micro-bunches begin to radiate as if they were single particles with immense charge. The process reaches saturation when the micro-bunching has gone as far as it can go.