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A new concept for shortening hard X-ray pulses emitted from a third-generation synchrotron source down to few picoseconds is presented. The device, called the PicoSwitch, exploits the dynamics of coherent acoustic phonons in a photo-excited thin film. A characterization of the structure demonstrates switching times of ≤ 5 ps and a peak reflectivity of ∼10−3. The device is tested in a real synchrotron-based pump–probe experiment and reveals features of coherent phonon propagation in a second thin film sample, thus demonstrating the potential to significantly improve the temporal resolution at existing synchrotron facilities.

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