back to article Pint-size gizmo shoots X-RAY LASER for first time

It was thought that it would take an atomic bomb to produce enough power to generate an X-ray laser, but a team of boffins have fired one from a table-top box of tricks. X-ray lasers need astonishing amounts of power and huge equipment to create extremely short-lived yet coherent beams with a wavelength in the tens of …


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  1. Olafthemighty

    Go boffins!

    <-- Obviously.

  2. Ryan 7



  3. Christoph

    Just the thing we need ...

    ... to fire at anyone wanting to get on a plane in the USA. Well obviously we need to - that 5 year-old kid might be a terrorist, and the manufacturer's salesman assured us that there's no medical risk at all.

  4. stucs201

    Small enough for shark mounting?

    ^^^ see title.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wake me up when it's Gamma rays.

    1. M Gale


      Oh dear.

      1. snafu

        Graser, actually.

        1. M Gale

          Not sure if that's any better!

  6. Swarthy

    X-ray lithography?

    That'll get the die size down,

  7. McGaz

    Disappointed that it wasn't from our mogwai friend.

  8. Johnny Canuck


    "Applications of these stupidly high-resolution femtosecond lasers include the study of biological cell structures and chemical reactions."

    And useful in thwarting alien hordes as their ships approach Earth.

    1. GSV Slightly Perturbed

      Re: Obviously

      [broadcast Eclear, sent 1339181710.4]

      xGSV Slightly Perturbed

      oBOFH Reg Readers

      An interesting hypothesis. I have one thing to say to this though:

      Do you feel lucky?

      Well, do ya?

      1. snafu

        Re: Obviously

        Please, please do Contact us. Being the control group is BORING!

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. GSV Slightly Perturbed

          Re: Obviously

          [broadcast Eclear, sent 1339190779.5]

          xGSV Slightly Perturbed

          oBOFH Reg Readers

          As I've already told people (before your kindly Admins decided to vanish my post several months after the fact), there is only so much a fleet of hyperintelligent starships can do at this point.

          The rest is up to you, chaps. We'll be waiting when you get here.

          1. andreas koch

            @ GSV Slightly Perturbed - Re: Obviously

            [broadcast Eclear, sent 1516790779.5]

            xAndreasKoch, aboard d*ROU 'Dinner Is Ready'

            oGSV Slightly Perturbed c/o The Register

            Stop sounding off, Mind, would you? They'll catch on otherwise.

            *sort of....

            1. Wombling_Free

              Re: @ GSV Slightly Perturbed - Obviously

              [broadcast Eclear, sent 1516843456.2]

              xWombling_Free, aboard GSV Takes One To Know One

              oGSV Slightly Perturbed; oROU Dinner Is Ready

              Xray matchsticks now, eh? I don't think they'll be catching on any time soon.

              Wake me for the third reel. Then again, perhaps not.

              1. andreas koch
                Thumb Up

                Re: @ GSV Slightly Perturbed - Obviously

                [broadcast Eclear, sent 1518200135.9]

                xAndreasKoch, aboard dROU 'Dinner Is Ready'

                oGSV Slightly Perturbed; oWombling_Free c/o GSV Takes One To Know One

                I'll sent a message when they manage to build a lazy gun; you might as well suspend (or hibernate in the case of Takes One To Know One's organic passenger) for a couple of millennia...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    New math fail

    "a wavelength in the tens of nanometers - 1,000 times shorter than that of visible light"

    While X-rays can indeed be 1000th the wavelength of visible light, "tens of nanometers" certainly isn't 1000 times shorter than visible light at very broadly 400-700nm.

    1. wim

      Re: New math fail

      well no this is New math, just like New Labour. It does not have to be true as long as it sounds nice / spectacular.

      1. Robert Grant Silver badge

        Re: New math fail

        This is exciting - you appear to have time-travelled here from five years ago! To get you up to speed: we have whizzy phones now, but the country's broke.

    2. TooDeep

      Maths & language fail

      1 times sorter than the wavelength in question (or anything for that matter) is no wavelength (or nothing). The other 999 times reductions are redundant.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    so haven't they tried it with sellotape yet?

    a reel of sellotape (scotch) when unrolled in a vacuum produces quite a useable amount of x-rays. When unrolling sellotape in the air, in the dark, you can often see the Čerenkov flashes!

    1. Tamer Shafik

      Re: so haven't they tried it with sellotape yet?

      Sellotape does indeed produce tiny flashes of light (and x-rays under the right conditions), but I don't believe anyone has suggested that this is Cherenkov radiation - there isn't a plausible mechanism for generating this from adhesive tape.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: so haven't they tried it with sellotape yet?

        True, it's more likely Bremsstrahlung than Cerenkov , but according to this Nature letter the Sellotape can produce 100mW @15keV to 100keV bursts.

        [Nature 455, 1089-1092 (23 October 2008) doi:10.1038/nature07378 "Correlation between nanosecond X-ray flashes and stick–slip friction in peeling tape"]

        A derivative paper idea postulates that quantum electrodynamic effects from nano materials in Sellotape create the X-ray and RF bursts, making it potentially dangerous to wrap your Christmas presents in a vacuum. Annoyingly for geeks, Duct Tape fails to generate X-rays! []

  11. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    "Desktop" X-ray lasers have been around for a while.

    And El Reg has covered one or two of them.

    However the "desktop" has been the size of a small warehouse and usually worked by pumping a large current through a hollow fibre filled with gas. Strictly a one shot system.

    This looks a lot smaller and capable of *continuous* operation

    Not likely to be very efficient in terms of wall socket power conversion (electricity -> 500 Mid IR photons -> 1 high energy photon).

    1. Schultz Silver badge

      Not so new

      The pint-sized can discussed here is being shot at with 80 fs, 10 mJ, 3.9 micrometer laser pulses. The latter comes from a decently sized laser. (Think about your garage if you are really well-off, or your living room if you are not).

      If you look up the authors and their competition, you'll find that this kind of X-ray lasing is done for about a decade and in some dozens of labs around the world. They just pushed the energy range a bit farther to the blue.

      The number of X-ray photons generated by that room of laser equipment is rather puny, so go and Google for LCLS if you want to read about spectacular amounts of X-rays.

  12. Antoine Dubuc

    Daisy chain the suckers?

    I remember a movie with Val Kilmer where he has this idea of introducing a gas in solid form for the laser and it becomes hugely powerful.

    So here the kickstart is a lightbeam. Could they daisy chain them, or use a more powerful kickstart?

  13. John Sanders

    The desktop is dead...

    ...according to some.

    In an effort to stay relevant this Xaser should be provided from a fondeslab.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Wonder if this would work with a sufficiently fast diode laser driven in tailbiter mode?

    ie pulse it with its maximum rated current then a few nanoseconds later avalanche transistor turns on.

  15. Crisp

    Where can I buy some lead underpants?

    I'm now concerned about x-ray laser wielding scientists rampaging over the city. Run for your lives!

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