His name has appeared in the media across the world – from Russia to South America, from the USА to Asia, from the world-famous Science format to the most-watched TV channel CNN. Bulgarian researcher Tenio Popminchev is the leader of a team that has created the revolutionary invention – a desktop X-ray laser. This device that previously had the size of a football pitch can now be fitted on a table. And what is more: the technology it offers is able for the first time to photograph the fastest processes outside the heart of the atom and to make X-ray images that are virtually harmless.
The creators of this invention believe that humanity is now on the verge of a real breakthrough in the field of physics, biology and medicine. Scientists think that with the help of X-ray lasers we would be able to monitor the images of chemical substances with atomic resolution of the image. And this will in turn enable us to take a glimpse of a number of physical processes inside. So far, the size and prices of traditional laser equipment make it impossible to be used on a mass scale. And what is more – according to the tenets of modern atomic physics, the creation of a new generation of X-ray lasers requires a huge amount of energy that only an atomic bomb can emit. This is the only way to excite the atom and trigger the emission of the necessary high-frequency radiation.
Yet, the team of researchers at the University of Boulder, in the state of Colorade, USA, has decided to check whether this is really so, by going against the tenets of their field. This bold move has yielded impressive results. After a series of experiments, the physicists managed to create the new desktop X-ray laser. Tenio Popminchev and his colleagues already have the first evidence that the strong radiation of the new device does not differ from that of a true laser although it is not based on the principle that would require the energy of an atomic bomb.
The new technology can be used for scientific research in biology, physics, etc. The X-ray laser of Tenio Popminchev can convert the infrared radiation into X-ray laser impulses. Virtually, the group of physicists have used the fact that the atoms of the noble gases argon and neon can be charged with energy, which has led to the release of photons from them (photons are elementary particles that carry quantum energy). The interesting thing here is that they start to emit photons synchronously in all directions and in all ranges of electromagnetic radiation. The resulting heterogeneous radiation has the characteristic dips and peaks. The peaks are in the ultraviolet and X-ray part of the spectrum. It is this effect that Popminchev and his colleagues used to create the X-ray laser in question. But for this purpose, a special mechanism for loading is needed, which can produce a maximum peak height and strength in the field of X-ray radiation. And the scientists were able to develop this facility - it is about an algorithm which changes the wavelength of the laser.
Physicists at the University of Boulder checked their methodology - they put together a prototype of the experimental X-ray laser and tried how it worked. The experiment was successful. They believe that such lasers can be used to study the structure of molecules, to monitor cellular processes, and other secrets of the mysterious microworld.
English Rossitsa Petcova