Dr Kevin O'Keeffe was awarded the Cavendish Medal for the excellence of his research at the SET for Britain poster competition held on 12th March in the House of Commons.
Kevin is studying the use of high-intensity laser pulses to generate coherent beams of soft x-rays via highly nonlinear processes in gaseous media. These compact sources of ultrafast x-rays have many potential applications, such as studying the dynamics of chemical and physical processes occurring on timescales as short as a billionth of a nanosecond, and coherent diffractive imaging of biological structures.
However, without taking additional steps, the efficiency of these sources is very low - primarily due to the difference in speed with which the driving and generated radiation propagate, which in turn causes destructive interference between x-rays generated at different points in the medium. To overcome this Kevin, who works in Simon Hooker's group in Atomic and Laser Physics, is developing "quasi-phase-matching" techniques which have the potential to increase the brightness of the x-ray beam by several orders of magnitude.
“I’m surprised and happy," said Kevin. "I really didn’t expect to win. It’s really nice to get the recognition and acknowledgement that the research we are doing is important.”