Photon-In/Photon-Out X-ray Free-Electron Laser Studies of Radiolysis

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Understanding the origin of reactive species following ionization in aqueous systems is an important aspect of radiation–matter interactions as the initial reactive species lead to production of radicals and subsequent long-term radiation damage. Tunable ultrafast X-ray free-electron pulses provide a new window to probe events occurring on the sub-picosecond timescale, supplementing other methodologies, such as pulse radiolysis, scavenger studies, and stop flow that capture longer timescale chemical phenomena. We review initial work capturing the fastest chemical processes in liquid water radiolysis using optical pump/X-ray probe spectroscopy in the water window and discuss how ultrafast X-ray pump/X-ray probe spectroscopies can examine ionization-induced processes more generally and with better time resolution. Ultimately, these methods will be applied to understanding radiation effects in complex aqueous solutions present in high-level nuclear waste.