UCLA Physics and Engineering Team Awarded $1 Million Grant by the W. M. Keck Foundation

A team consisting of Professor Robert Candler of Electrical Engineering and Professors Pietro Musumeci and James Rosenzweig from Physics and Astronomy has received a prestigious $1 million research grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation, funding a proposal entitled “Ultra-compact X-ray Free Electron Laser.”

This is a 2-year program which aims to miniaturize free electron lasers (FELs) by combining novel nano-fabrication techniques to produce extreme short period undulator magnets, with cutting edge beam physics, enabling access to new physical regimes of the FEL. This scenario will enable low energy accelerators to be used to produce coherent, short pulses of X-ray radiation for use in biology, condensed matter physics, medicine and ultrafast chemistry. 

Currently there is only one X-ray highly oversubscribed laser device — over one kilometer in length — capable of producing high-speed (femtosecond) and high-resolution (Angstrom) imaging for these applications, and it is only accessible from a billion dollar-class national laboratory at Stanford. The success of this study will lead to the creation of X-ray FELs that can fit in university laboratories.

Indeed the prototype for this will be the Keck-funded experiment, which will be sited in Prof. Rosenzweig’s new laboratory under construction in Warren Hall on the UCLA Southwest Campus. As an endpoint to the Keck study, the UCLA team intends to generate ultrafast, high-resolution images in the X-ray water window, thus enabling compelling biological applications. These miniature X-ray FELs, will create a paradigm shift by making this tool for transformational science widely available to scientists.

The W. M. Keck Foundation funds distinct and novel research programs with promising and transformative impact that will advance technology and sciences for the preservation of life, access to innovative solutions and a better understanding of the world we live in.