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PULSE Overview

The Stanford PULSE Institute is a Stanford independent laboratory as well as a research center within the Science Directorate of SLAC.  The mission of PULSE is to advance the frontiers of ultrafast science. One of our primary tools is the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), the world’s first hard X-ray free electron laser, located at SLAC. By leveraging the LCLS and the opportunities it enables, we strive to provide world leadership in ultrafast and short wavelength science and technology. The science being conducted by PULSE researchers is driven heavily by the transformational research opportunities introduced by ultrafast and high field science with X-rays, thus we are engaging in work that was not possible prior to the introduction of the LCLS.

PULSE major research areas:

In addition to our research, we also provide education programs in ultrafast X-ray science through our annual summer school and new research programs through our visitors program and our seed funding program. 

Why is the LCLS special?

The LCLS is about 109 times brighter than previous X-ray sources produced in the laboratory and and also provides time resolution in the femtosecond range. In other words, LCLS is the first tool in human history capable of producing light with a wavelength on the scale of atomic length, field strength, and time. For the first time we will be able to "see" quantum processes on the atomic scale. Our challenge is to make this happen.

What are X-rays?

X-rays are a form of light with a very short wavelength. Consequently, X-ray "microscopes" have a very high spatial resolution, capable of viewing individual atoms inside a molecule or in a solid.

What is "ultrafast?"

The motion of atoms inside molecules during a chemical transformation, or the atomic motion that accompanies a phase change from solid to liquid occurs very fast—on the order of one trillionth of a second, or a picosecond. The electrons that rearrange in bonds when light is absorbed or during a chemical transition can move more than one thousand times faster than that—on the order of a femtosecond or less. To capture, view, and probe this motion, we need to have laser pulses much shorter than one picosecond--exactly what the LCLS offers.

What is "high field?"

The environment inside a molecule or between atoms in a solid is characterized by very strong electric and magnetic fields over very short distances (Angstroms). High-field lasers can probe this energy scale by producing light fields with strength comparable to this atomic binding field, or many volts per Angstrom.


We are proud to have talented researchers who have gained recognition for their work. Here are some awards which past and present PULSE researchers have garnered:

  • DOE Office of Science Early Career Award Shambu Ghimire Awarded May 2014
  • William E. and Diane M. Spicer Young Investigator Award James Cryan Awarded October 2012
  • DOE Office of Science Early Career Award Markus Gühr Awarded May 2011
  • Davisson Germer Prize for Condensed Matter Physics Jo Stohr Awarded October 2010
  • SSRL William E. Spicer Young Investigator Award (co-winner) D. M. Fritz Menlo Park, CA Awarded October 2006
  • University of Michigan Rackham School of Graduate Studies Distinguished Dissertation Award D. M. Fritz Ann Arbor, MI Awarded May 2007
  • Freie Universitaet Ernst Reuter Prize for best Ph. D. thesis M. Gühr Berlin, Germany Awarded December 2006
  • Lynen Research Scholarship M. Gühr Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung Foundation May 2006 – June 2007