Biggest X-ray laser in the world generates its first laser light

World science, 05 May 2017

Photo: European XFEL / Heiner Müller-Elsner. View into the 2.1-kilometre long accelerator tunnel of European XFEL with the yellow superconducting accelerator modules hanging from the ceiling.

In the metropolitan region of Hamburg, the European XFEL, the biggest X-ray laser in the world, has reached the last major milestone before the official opening in September. The 3.4 km long facility, most of which is located in underground tunnels, has generated its first X-ray laser light.

The X-ray light has a wavelength of 0.8 nm—about 500 times shorter than that of visible light. At first lasing, the laser had a repetition rate of one pulse per second, which will later increase to 27 000 per second.

With its first lasing, the European XFEL reaches the last big milestone before the official opening

«The first laser light produced today with the most advanced and most powerful linear accelerator in the world marks the beginning a new era of research in Europe», — Helmut Dosch, Chairman of the DESY Directorate, said (DESY is one of the XFEL collaborators).

The X-ray laser light of the European XFEL is extremely intense and a billion times brighter than that of conventional synchrotron light sources. The achievable laser light wavelength corresponds to the size of an atom, meaning that the X-rays can be used to make pictures and films of the nanocosmos at atomic resolution—such as of biomolecules, from which better understandings of the basis of illnesses or the development of new therapies could be developed. Other opportunities include research into chemical processes and catalytic techniques, with the goal of improving their efficiency or making them more environmentally friendly; materials research; or the investigation of conditions similar to the interior of planets.

12 countries, including Russia, contribute to the European XFEL. The official start of research operation of the European XFEL is planned for September 2017.

Photo: European XFEL / Heiner Müller-Elsner. Undulator—Last preparations at the undulator in the tunnel, the structures that generate the X-ray radiation


Within the framework of the FLASH and XFEL international projects, JINR physicists participate in the development of diagnostic systems of ultrashort bunches in the linear accelerator, X-ray, large cryogenic systems.

Based on European XFEL