A team of physicists from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has created the brightest light ever produced on Earth that is one billion times brighter than the surface of the sun. To create this record-breaking light, the team fired an ultra high-intensity laser known as the DIOCLES laser at electrons suspended in helium. Their aim was to study how the laser’s photon scattered from each time it is struck.
When light from a bulb or the sun strikes a surface, it’s the scattering phenomenon that makes vision possible, but an electron usually scatters just one photon of light at a time. Previous laser-based experiments have scattered a few photons from the same electron, but this time, the team managed to scattered nearly 1,000 photons at a time. The team said at the ultra-high intensities produced by the laser, both the photons and electron behaved much differently than usual – and they actually changed the appearance of the object.
“When we have this unimaginably bright light, it turns out that the scattering — this fundamental thing that makes everything visible — fundamentally changes in nature,” said Umstadter, the lead researchers of the study in a news release. Also, a photon of standard light typically scatters at the same angle and energy it featured before striking the electron, regardless of how bright its light might be. However, the team found that, above a certain threshold, the laser’s brightness altered the angle, shape and wavelength of that scattered light.
“So it’s as if things appear differently as you turn up the brightness of the light, which is not something you normally would experience,” Umstadter said. “(An object) normally becomes brighter, but otherwise, it looks just like it did with a lower light level. But here, the light is changing (the object’s) appearance. The light’s coming off at different angles, with different colors, depending on how bright it is.”
The team said another possibility of so many scattered photons is in creation of special X-rays which could be used to hunt “for tumors or microfractures” that regular X-rays aren’t able to see, and also be employed as ultrafast camera to capture snapshots of electron motion or chemical reactions. The study has been published in the journal Nature Photonics.