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Polish scientists use X-ray technology to measure chemical reactions

At the heart of chemistry and biology is a phenomenon that lasts trillionths of a second. They are everywhere. Until recently, the world began to try to record their true path, with mixed results. However, Krakow scientists have proved that they can build a new window into the field of Arab physics and draw a promising blueprint.


Attosecond phenomena can be studied with free electron lasers such as swissfel (this photo shows its research station alvra). X-ray timing technology can provide the most accurate image of these phenomena by analyzing the shape before and after the interaction between laser pulse and sample. Source:IFJ pan/Paul Scherrer Institute/swissfel alvra

Chemical processes involving changes in the arrangement of electrons in atoms and molecules take place quickly, both deep in cells and in test tubes. Their frequency and importance are in line with the interests of scientists who have long tried to track their evolution over time.

The current X-ray technology aims to observe the process lasting attosecond (trillionth of a second), which puts forward great requirements for the characteristics of the radiation beam used.

According to a new measurement method proposed by a group of scientists at the Institute of Nuclear Physics (IFJ pan) of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Krakow, this situation is expected to improve in the next few years.

The X-ray free electron laser (xfel) makes it possible to track the progress of the process as fast as the combination of atoms and molecules. Due to their size and construction cost, these equipment are used only in a few places around the world. They produce ultrashort X-ray pulses that last only a few femtoseconds.

Two main measurement methods used in xfel Laser CenteryesX-ray spectrum and X-ray diffraction。 The former studies the change of radiation spectrum when interacting with the sample, while the latter studies how X-rays scatter on the sample.



– Dr. Wojciech blachucki, first author, Institute of physical chemistry, Polish Academy of Sciences


If the laser pulse lasts 20 femtoseconds and the information about its time structure can be reconstructed within 100 points, it can be envisaged to detect the phenomenon that occurs at the time of 20/100=1/5 femtosecond (i.e. 200 attosecond).


The time required to irradiate the sample increased to several hours, which made the actual experiment difficult. This limitation does not exist in the X-ray TDOA meter. It eliminates the need for radiation pulses by using a sensitive method to determine the time structure of radiation pulses.

After putting into useThe existing laser center may spend part of its working time on attosecond measurement of other tissues (such as industry).



 The measurement technology we proposed is not only limited to free electron lasers, but also universal. Therefore, it can also be successfully used in other light sources that generate ultrashort X-ray pulses, such as the aurora infrastructure near Prague.

– Dr. Jakub szlachetko, Institute of physical chemistry, Polish Academy of Sciences

Scientists from Stockholm (KTH Royal Institute of Technology), Uppsala (Uppsala University), villigan (Paul Scheler Institute), schenefeld (European xfel Co., Ltd.) and Warsaw (IFJ pan, Institute of physical chemistry, Polish Academy of Sciences) have contributed to the research of IFJ pan. The study was funded by the Polish National Science Center.

Journal Reference:B ł achucki. W., et al., (2022) Approaching the Attosecond Frontier of Dynamics in Matter with the Concept of X-ray Chronoscopy. Applied Sciences. doi. org/10.3390/app12031721.