Saturday, September 8, 2007

The lab

EDIT: I've just added some photos.

Sorry about not updating this thing sooner, but I've been really busy. Since so much has happened, I will divide my writing into several posts. This one is about the work.

Last weeks Tuesday I started working at the lab. I met the professor and the two Ph.D's I am going to be working with. They were very kind to me and showed me around the lab. I don't think I have seen a lab this packed with stuff before.

In the middle of the lab is a huge table where the femtosecond laser pulses* are generated and modified. This part of the setup takes up most of the space, and is very hard to describe without getting into details.
At the end of the setup is placed a vacuum chamber where liquid mercury can be pumped through. A parabola mirror is placed such that the laser is focused in the middle of the chamber creating a small plasma. This plasma excites the mercury jet, creating a pulsed 'hard'** X-ray beam.

This last part of the setup we have been working with since I started. There are lots of technial difficulties in order for everything to work together, and therefore the setup is constantly altered.

So far, I have mostly followed the others in the lab trying to understand what goes on in there. Even though it's all still a bit confusing to me, I'm beginning to understand more and more, and I have slowly begun to do smaller things for myself. I'm looking forward to the day when I'm able to operate the equipment without supervision from the others, but it will probably be a while from now.

*For those of you who don't know what this stuff is all about, I have created a short description of the project in the bar on the right side of the page. Since I am still trying to learn this myself, there will probably be lots of errors and missing links in the beginning, but I will try to update and correct it as my knowledge increases.

**An X-ray beam with a relative high energy is said to be 'hard'. This originates from the fact that thin sheets of metal are sometimes used to absorp the photons with low energy, thus creating a high-pass energy filter.

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