The question on how to build a ultra-fast tabletop X-ray laser that could be used for super high-resolution imaging may have been solved by recent breakthroughs from scientists.
Both of these feats could lead to major breakthroughs in many fields including medicine, biology and nanotechnology development.
Research into the field is being carried out by University of Colorado at Boulder physics professors Margaret Murnane and Henry Kapteyn from the past two decades.
"Our goal is to create a laser beam that contains a broad range of X-ray wavelengths all at once that can be focused both in time and space," Murnane said.
"If we have this source of coherent light that spans a huge region of the electromagnetic spectrum, we would be able to make the highest resolution light-based tabletop microscope in existence that could capture images in 3-D and tell us exactly what we are looking at. We're very close," he added.
Most of today's X-ray lasers require so much power that they rely on fusion laser facilities the size of football stadiums or larger, making their use impractical.
Murnane and Kapteyn generate coherent laser-like X-ray beams by using an intense femtosecond laser and combining hundreds or thousands of visible photons together, and the key is they are doing it with a desktop-size system.
They can already generate laser-like X-ray beams in the soft X-ray region and believe they have discovered how to extend the process all the way into the hard X-ray region of the electromagnetic spectrum.
"If we can do this, it could lead to all kinds of possibilities. It might make it possible to improve X-ray imaging resolution at your doctor's office by a thousand times," Kapteyn said.
"The X-rays we get in the hospital now are limited. For example, they can't detect really small cancers because the X-ray source in your doctor's office is more like a light bulb, not a laser. If you had a bright, focused laser-like X-ray beam, you could image with far higher resolution," he added.
"Being able to build a tabletop X-ray laser is just the beginning," said Kapteyn.