This video explains the basics of how scientists at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory use powerful X-rays from the Linac Coherent Light Source to make molecular movies.
Most molecular movies are made using a pump-probe technique involving two energetic pulses.
The first pulse is the “pump” and kicks off the reaction being studied.
A precisely delayed “probe” pulse creates a snapshot.
By altering the time separation between the pump and probe, scientists create frames of a movie of the reaction.
The pump pulse, shown in blue, is typically an optical laser that instantly sets the molecule in motion.
The probe pulse, shown in red, uses X-ray light or electrons to allow for atomic-scale resolution.
The resulting molecular movies show how molecules behave at their natural scales of size and time, moving in quadrillionths of a second.
Credit: Chris Smith & Andy Freeberg, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory