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Unlocking Insights into the Interaction of Light with Matter

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Ocean Insight spectrometers are helping researchers to improve experiments conducted at the European X-ray Free-Electron Laser facility, paving the way to better study the light-matter interactions of species in gaseous media.

An international team of researchers at the European X-ray Free-Electron Laser (XFEL) facility is using a pair of Ocean Insight Ocean HDX-XR spectrometers as part of a project to improve the temporal resolution of experiments conducted using the organization’s Small Quantum Systems (SGS) instrument. The SGS is used to investigate light-matter interactions of atoms, molecules and nanoparticles at lower-energy (“soft”) X-ray wavelengths.

XFELs produce high-intensity, short-duration pulses that help scientists to better understand the structure and working mechanisms of atoms, biomolecules and chemicals. XFELs have been critical in studying viruses – including the spike protein of coronavirus -- and enabling the development of vaccines.

About the Work

As reported in the open-access paper “Timing and X-ray pulse characterization at the Small Quantum Systems instrument of the European X-ray Free Electron Laser” (Optics Express, Vol. 29, No. 23/8 November 2021), laser engineer Patrik Grychtol and team of researchers from throughout Europe were able to apply spectral encoding and other techniques to improve the temporal resolution of pump-probe experiments at the SGS instrument. The work helped to quantify certain timing parameters and to characterize X-ray pulse duration.

During the experiment, part of an optical laser beam was measured using an Ocean HDX-XR spectrometer (200-1100 nm) as a reference spectrometer. Ocean HDX-XR is responsive from 200-1100 nm, is thermally stable, and has excellent peak symmetry. A second Ocean HDX-XR measured a soft X-ray pulse mapped onto the optical laser spectrum. As part of the experiment benchmarking process, these spectra were captured for each pair of XFEL/optical laser pulses.

Ultimately, as the researchers point out in their paper, efforts to improve overall performance at the European XFEL facility are ongoing, with Ocean Insight spectrometers among the tools available to help monitor different characteristics of these important experiment processes.

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