Unveiling finer details in the physics of materials

Scientists at the European XFEL’s SCS instrument routinely use a technique called transient X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) to investigate materials that have applications in data storage and processing, catalysis, or in the search for room temperature superconductors. Investigating very small changes in the motion of electrons within a material’s structure on ultrashort timescales provides scientists with fingerprints of the complex processes at play within them. This helps them characterise samples that are important for energy and materials research.

Using the European XFEL’s brilliant pulses, researchers can overcome some of the issues of conventional transient XAS—such as long measurement times—but the varying intensity of European XFEL’s pulses provides its own challenges. Now, scientists at SCS have implemented a new sampling scheme for improving the efficiency of such measurements.

Read more on the European XFEL website

Image: The X-ray beam is split into three copies. Two of these copies are passed through identical samples of the material under investigation, with one of these samples also being illuminated by a laser (‘optical laser’ in the figure). This transforms it into a new state, interesting to researchers. From this, scientists are able to ‘subtract’ detrimental noise, revealing the finest details of the sample under investigation.