Bright idea: scientists' super laser puts sun in the shade
A laser has produced the most dazzling light ever made on Earth - one billion times brighter than the surface of the sun.
The extreme brightness sparked a phenomenon never seen before - unique X-rays that could be used for super-sensitive medical scans and security systems.
Scientists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the US fired an ultra high-intensity laser at electrons suspended in helium.
The aim was to study how photons from the laser scattered from single electrons. It is the scattering of light from a surface that makes vision possible.
But in this case the high number of scattered photons, almost 1,000 at a time, produced results that turned nature on its head.
Professor Donald Umstadter, from the university's extreme light laboratory, said: "It's as if things appear differently as you turn up the brightness of light, which is not something you normally would experience."
One effect was the creation of X-rays with unique properties, said the scientists writing in the journal 'Nature Photonics'.
They could form the basis of low-dose but highly sensitive 3D X-ray scans for tracking down elusive tumours.
Another potential application was the detection of increasingly sophisticated threats at security checkpoints.