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LCLS collaboration revs up

LCLS collaboration members at January meeting. (Photo by Diana Rogers)
Click here for a high resolution photograph.

The Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) collaboration met in January to focus on beginning to build the world’s first X-ray free electron laser.

More than 50 people from SLAC and collaborating institutions (Argonne, LLNL and UCLA) reviewed the design of the machine’s major systems.

“It’s our last pass over the design before we start spending money,” said LCLS Director John Galayda.

The project recently received a major funding boost to $54 million for fiscal year 2005 from a Congressional budget appropriation.

“The Department of Energy’s Office of Science—which funds synchrotron programs—has given the project very high priority and got our full request through Congress,” Galayda said. “I was euphoric.”

LCLS will provide a powerful combination of laser properties delivered at X-ray wavelengths. The machine’s X-ray pulses will be 1,000 times shorter and 10 billion times brighter than pulses available at existing synchrotron sources like SPEAR3. This will enable breakthrough science such as the creation and study of exotic states of matter, imaging the structures and dynamics of biological and chemical molecules on the atomic scale, and probing the fundamental aspects of atomic structure.

Congress began funding project engineering and design work for LCLS in fiscal year 2003 with $6 million. Last year, LCLS received $7.5 million for engineering and design, and $2 million for research and development. The big step up to $54 million marks the first phase of construction. Actual groundbreaking and construction of new buildings will begin in 2006. Construction will include half a mile of tunnel and 100,000 square feet of work space, including underground experimental halls and a central laboratory office support building.

“The funding this fiscal year, will go to accelerate engineering design and buy the first components. [Progress] requires a big step upward in activity this year,” Galayda said.

Thirty million dollars goes to long-lead procurement—buying components that are needed early on to meet the overall schedule. SLAC will transfer funds to Argonne to buy raw materials and supervise construction of specialized undulator magnets to induce the electron beam from SLAC’s linear accelerator (linac) to emit X-rays. SLAC will build a magnet measurement facility to test, adjust and align the complex magnet structures.

Another task in the early phase will be to build an injector to produce an intense electron beam ready to travel at nearly the speed of light down the last third of SLAC’s two-mile linac. The LCLS will not interfere with operation of the B Factory, the Lab’s primary high energy physics experiment.

Project engineering and design will continue this year with $20 million of the funds, with $4 million remaining for research and development, primarily into X-ray optics and diagnostics. The project total is approximately $315 million.

“In parallel with the construction effort, we’re also planning the experimental program,” said SSRL Director Keith Hodgson.

An international scientific advisory committee evaluated and ranked proposals for the initial suite of instruments. Working in close cooperation with researchers who will use LCLS, the project is beginning R&D and design on the instruments using $1.5 million of additional funding provided by DOE

Stanford, in close cooperation with SLAC, is preparing to take advantage of the unique research capabilities of LCLS with a new center for ultrafast science that will share the LCLS facility. The DOE awarded $4.7 million for three years, and the W. M. Keck Foundation in early January awarded Stanford $1 million for developing research programs in the center.

“The LCLS offers a new opportunity for Stanford to build research programs that will strengthen the ties between SLAC and the main campus in very substantial ways,” said Arthur Bienenstock, former SSRL director and vice provost and dean of research and graduate policy at Stanford.

“LCLS will represent a major investment in scientific infrastructure at the Laboratory, making yet another innovative use of the SLAC linac to deliver a scientific tool of unprecedented capabilities,” said SLAC Director Jonathan Dorfan. “Together with our SPEAR3 facility, SLAC will be among the premier laboratories in the world for synchrotron science in the coming decades.”


Scientists expect LCLS to deliver ‘first light’ to experimenters in 2009. For more information, see: http://www-ssrl.slac.stanford.edu/lcls


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