LANL’s Bruce Carlsten Wins Prestigious Wilson Prize


LANL Radio Frequency Engineer Bruce Carlsten has been awarded the Wilson Prize. Photo Courtesy LANL


Bruce Carlsten, a radio frequency engineer at Los Alamos National Laboratory, was awarded the 2020 Robert R. Wilson Prize for Achievement in the Physics of Particle Accelerators, presented by the American Physical Society. He will receive this prize at the 2020 International Particle Accelerator Conference.

Open to all members of the scientific community in the U.S. and abroad, this award is the premier recognition of achievement in the accelerator science and technology field.

Foundation for free-electron lasers

Carlsten is a pioneer in the production and use of high-brightness electron beams. He was cited in the Wilson Prize “for the discovery and subsequent implementation of emittance compensation in photoinjectors that has enabled the development of high-brightness, x-ray free-electron lasers such as the Linac Coherent Light Source.”

These ideas are of such fundamental importance that nearly every free-electron laser in the world uses them.

Unprecedented beam brightness

Carlsten joined Los Alamos as a graduate student in 1982 and completed his PhD in electrical engineering from Stanford University in 1985. He has worked with and led teams of scientists and engineers from the Accelerator Operations and Technology and the Intelligence and Space Research divisions, where he was also a group leader.

His discovery of techniques enabling unprecedented beam brightness has led to a new generation of intense free-electron lasers. In an x-ray free-electron lasers (XFEL), a beam of high-energy electrons produces x-rays to image materials at femtosecond time scales.

These techniques are also used in other free-electron lasers, including the one the Laboratory was developing for the U.S. Navy for shipboard defense against missiles. The techniques may even be used in the next generation of high-energy accelerators for particle physics research.

Carlsten is a past recipient of the U.S. Particle Accelerator School Prize for Achievement in Accelerator Physics and Technology and the International Free Electron Laser Conference Free-Electron Laser Prize. He is a fellow of Los Alamos National Laboratory, APS and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

National security science needs special light sources

Carlsten currently works on developing new technologies for XFELs, particularly new accelerator architectures to extend their x-ray energy reach, and compact accelerators and their applications for the National Nuclear Security Administration.

High-brilliance, high-repetition-rate x-ray light sources are essential to the Laboratory’s national security science mission, allowing researchers to the study the dynamic response of materials under extreme conditions. The Laboratory is looking to x-ray free-electron lasers as a proposed solution for fulfilling the U.S. Department of Energy’s need for a Dynamic Mesoscale Materials Science Capability (DMMSC). With this new capability, researchers could at last understand the link between a material’s structure, its properties and its performance.