Released By: Australian Synchrotron
Release Date: Sun 16 November 2008

Synchrotron's first PhD student works to improve the free electron laser

An immensely powerful laser is being tested at the Elettra synchrotron in Trieste, Italy. Its intense pulses of light will last 100 femtoseconds - 1 ten thousand billionth of a second. It will allow 'time lapse photography' of the details of chemical reactions, and will explore strange forms of matter such as that thought to be at the heart of giant planets like Jupiter.

Swiss scientist Evelyne Meier, working at the Australian Synchrotron in Melbourne, is doing her bit to ensure that it will produce the world's fastest and finest pulses of x-ray light.

Evelyne is central to a collaboration between researchers at the Australian Synchrotron and Monash University, the Linear Coherent Light Source at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in California, and the FERMI@Elettra project in Trieste, Italy.

She is building a feedback system to stabilise the energy and the pulse length of the electron beam that drives the free electron laser at the heart of the FERMI@Elettra lightsource. It's a new generation light source capable of creating higher intensity laser-like light that can be used to study small scale phenomena with even higher resolution than third-generation.

"This level of resolution will lead to considerable advances in the understanding of biological processes and other dynamic interactions," explains Evelyne.

"But if the beam is not stable enough, the free electron laser process can be severely damaged," she explains. "It needs to be very stable to create usable light, with a deviation of less than 0.3 percent in energy."

She is developing a feedback system to manage and improve the beam.

Evelyne originally came to Australia from the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland in 2006 to complete a research project for her Master's degree to improve the efficiency of the Australian Synchrotron's linear accelerator.

It was at the Australian Synchrotron that she met Sandra Biedron, a physicist from the Argonne National Laboratories in the US, who was visiting Australia. Sandra, who also consults to the Elettra synchrotron, suggested Meier stay in Australia to do her PhD, and was instrumental in setting up the agreements between the Australian and the Italian research groups.

Sandra, along with Monash University's Michael Morgan and the Australian Synchrotron's chief accelerator scientist Greg Le Blanc, is now one of Evelyne's three PhD supervisors.

With Sandra's help, a decommissioned piece of equipment from the Elettra synchrotron's linear accelerator has been installed at the Australian Synchrotron to allow Evelyne to conduct some of her experiments. And she is likely to participate in the commissioning of FERMI@Elettra as well.

In the meantime, her presence at Monash and the Australian Synchrotron is helping to boost Australia's participation in high energy and accelerator physics research.

< Back to media releases