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The next generation of X-ray sources is on the way, with the potential to open doors in fields from physics and biology to art history and classics. So for faculty, students and postdoctoral researchers working on questions that X-ray science might someday be able to answer, now is the time to chime in.
To stimulate the conversation and generate new ideas, the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS) will host six workshops throughout June in the Robert Purcell Community Center. The series of two-day gatherings, titled XDL 2011, will focus on new science at the hard X-ray diffraction limit -- research that will be possible for the first time with ultra-brilliant, ultra-fast coherent X-ray sources like the Energy Recovery Linac (ERL), a linear accelerator currently in development at Cornell.
The university received $32 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in September 2010 to support continued ERL research and development. A prototype electron beam injector has been operating since July 2008; and Cornell scientists expect to have proven concepts and construction techniques by 2015. They will then propose moving to the engineering and construction phase of a full ERL light source. Construction would overlap operation of the existing facility, after which the ERL would replace CHESS as a first-of-its-kind X-ray center on central campus.
The interactive workshops will feature speakers from within and outside Cornell on topics in X-ray microscopy, novel biomolecular studies, ultra-fast science, high-pressure science, materials at the nanometer scale and X-ray correlation spectroscopies -- with plenty of time for open discussion. Registration is free.
It's the perfect opportunity for anyone with new ideas to join the ERL project on the ground floor, said Ernie Fontes, associate director of CHESS.
"It's all about future capability -- a machine here that will be the first of its kind," Fontes said. "It's really something we want faculty and students to be engaged in, because it's the future of X-ray science on campus."
The ERL, one of several competing X-ray source technologies in development around the world, would be capable of imaging structures just a few atoms wide, and whose motions would be resolved to less than a picosecond (a millionth of one-millionth of a second). Unlike other X-ray source technologies, the ERL would not be limited to the study of perfectly ordered crystals; and it could probe many samples repeatedly without, or before, damaging or destroying them.
So researchers could watch atoms vibrate, for example, or observe a protein molecule as it folds. "The kinds of researchers at Cornell who could be interested are enormous," said Joel Brock, professor of applied and engineering physics. "We want broad participation -- including people who may not have thought of themselves as traditional users."
Ideas generated at the workshops will be written up to serve as part of the case to funding agencies in favor of building next-generation X-ray source facilities. And by getting involved now, research teams can help shape the ERL's ultimate design and capabilities.
"We're hoping these teams become part of the ultimate facility and actually help drive how the facility is built," Fontes said. As with CHESS, he added, Cornell faculty and students would become dedicated users and help shape the facility's future.
"Cornell involvement in CHESS is strong because it's so local; because students can live here and grow here," he said. "We want that to continue and be better in the future."
The workshop series is a collaboration among CHESS, the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY), the Photon Factory and the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL), with support from the NSF and U.S. Department of Energy.
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