In an astonishment result, experts have focused successfully the full intensity of this laser onto a single molecule, and the result has given rise to a wonder no one's ever seen before, a molecular 'Black Hole', which eats anything in its path.
Training laser beams in on naive molecules is nothing different, in earlier experiments, physicists have used minor-intensity lasers to discharge small iodo-methane molecules and slip away the electrons surrounding their single iodine atom.
But when Boutet and his team of scientists focused an extrely-intense X-ray laser pulse from SLAC's Linac Coherent Light Source (CLS) onto a similar molecule, unexpectedly it gave rise to a starving void, which started dragging electrons from the remaining molecules like a microscopic black hole, before quickly blowing up.
"It produced a lot of charge inside the atom, and it eats everything around it," one of the scientists, Daniel Rolles from Kansas State University (KSU), told Douglas Main at Newsweek.
"It does not seem to stop."
The entire thing was over in less than 30 femto-seconds (millionths of a billionth of a second). The researchers' molecule was stripped of more than fifty electrons, which was much more than expected, based on what low-intense beams have done before.
Scientists first tested with single xenon atoms, using extraordinary mirrors to fire the X-ray beam to an area which was just over 100 nano-metres in diameter, thousand times smaller than the width of a human hair.
The X-ray discharge stripped the xenon atoms of their own electrons, generating what's well-known as a 'hollow atom'. But this phase didn't last long - electrons from the external parts of the atom started falling down to fill the void, only to be thrusted back out by another X-Ray laser beam.
That sort of activities recalls what scientists have detected in the previous experiments via lower-energy laser beams, but things got strange when they observed what happened to iodine atoms inside bigger iodomethane molecules.
The iodine atom started ripping electrons from its close carbon and hydrogen atoms, dragging them in like a black hole would consume matter that courses too close to its event horizon.
The laser beam would blast them away again and again each time when the atom would pull in the stolen electrons, and the atom ended up dropping 54 electrons, more than the 53 it had started with before being demolished.
The researchers repeated the development using an even bigger iodobenzene molecule, and a similar miracle occurred.
Main reports for Newsweek, "This is not something physicists have ever seen before. Altogether, the X-ray lasered away 54 of the molecule's 62 electrons, releasing a charge ‘54 times’ what it would be in an unexcited state. This is the most extreme charge (level of ionization) ever reached using light, according to the scientists."
The team says many experiments are needed to understand exactly what's happening here, because they believe that the bigger iodobenzene molecule might have sucked in and lost more than the 54 and shed by the iodomethane molecule.
"We consider the result was even more significant in the larger molecule than in the smaller one, but we don't know how to count it yet," one of the scientists, Artem Rudenko from Kansas State University (KSU), said in a press statement.
"We guess that more than 60 electrons were pulled out, but we don't truly know where it stopped, because we could not spot all the remains that flew off as the molecule fell apart to see how many electrons were lost. This is one of the open questions we need to study and understand."
The research is published in Nature.