A scientist at work in the Extreme Light Laboratory at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where physicists using the brightest light ever produced were able to change the way photons scatter from electrons. | University of Nebraska-Lincoln

A group of physicists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Extreme Light Laboratory announced Monday that they have created the brightest light ever produced on Earth.   An ultra-high-intensity laser system, DIOCLES, was built at UNL to study the interactions of light with matter at the highest attainable field strengths, and has produced the most intense light ever made on Earth – one billion times brighter than the surface of the sun.

The findings  published in the journal Nature Photonics, revealed that the focused beam essentially knocks the electrons out of their usual alignment, scattering light in a fundamentally different way. The impact shakes the electrons into a figure-eight “quiver” pattern, shooting off additional photons at different angles, shapes, and wavelengths. The phenomenon, mathematically predicted in various theories, had never before been confirmed until now.  In everyday circumstances, an electron scatters just a couple photons of light at a time, but with the DIOCLES laser system, almost 1,000 photons scatter at once.   The research , funded by the US Air Force, US Department of Energy, the Department of Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, and US and Chinese national science foundations, could be developed into finding more sophisticated ways to map the molecular landscapes of nanoscopic materials now finding their way into semiconductor technology, hunt for tumors or microfractures that elude conventional X-rays or detect increasingly sophisticated threats at security checkpoints.