An illustration showing the unexpected result of an interaction between X-rays and matter, research conducted by UNL physicist Matthias Fuchs, is featured on the cover of the January issue of Physik Journal, a German publication.
The illustration accompanies an article by a scientist in Sweden about the significance of the results that Fuchs and his team originally reported in the journal Nature Physics last August. In the Nature Physics article, the team described their research on the phenomenon that occurs when simultaneously smashing two X-ray photons into a single atom using a high-intensity laser. The event, highly improbable and requiring an X-ray laser so enormous that only two exist in the world, unlocked significant new opportunities to investigate matter.
The illustration by Joel Brehm, graphic designer in UNL’s Office of Research and Economic Development, captures the moment of impact: as two X-ray photons strike a beryllium metal atom at the exact same moment, they form a single X-ray photon and the atom ejects an electron.
Fuchs’ experiment yielded surprising results. Contrary to theoretical predictions, the researchers found that the energy of the generated photon was significantly lower than expected. These results suggest that the team has discovered a previously unobserved interaction mechanism, where the fact that the electron is bound to the atom plays an important role.
The observation is spurring research to fully understand this novel scattering mechanism and to answer fundamental questions about the interaction of light and matter.
In the future, these results may provide a better way to understand materials. The newly observed process has the potential to provide important clues about both the material’s chemical composition and arrangement.
Fuchs, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy, led the research in collaboration with colleagues at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, Stanford University and Bar-Ilan University in Israel.
The X-ray free-electron laser is located at the U.S. Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford University in California.