The present information provides a system and an apparatus to produce x-rays from plasmas by focusing an intense, short duration optical pulse from a laser onto a target. The concentrated energy contained in the focused laser beam ionizes the target material, raising it to a temperature at which ions are produced in a chain reaction ionization, and x-rays are emitted when ions become de-excited (their electrons change energy level) or free electrons recombine with the ions in the plasma. The method comprises controlling pulse time duration of x-rays emitted from a plasma-forming target generating a beam of one or more laser pulses, adjusting the intensity of the laser pulse to obtain a desired intensity incident at a surface of the plasma-forming target matter; directing the laser pulse onto the surface of the plasma-forming matter to generate the x-rays having a pulse duration which changes in proportion to a change in the incident laser pulse intensity. In one embodiment, the x-rays are then directed onto a sample target.
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