The European X-ray free laser (XFEL) is the biggest X-ray laser in the world, and it has produced a lot of joy among the scientific community since it has just generated its first X-ray laser light. The preparations are ready for the official opening of the laser at the beginnings of September.

The laser is located in a 3.4 km facility in Germany. Most of it consists of underground tunnels. Several countries around the world have contributed with know-how and components; therefore it is a great success for the scientific collaboration.

Two-kilometer long acceleration section of the XFEL with superconducting accelerator modules. Image credit: DESY.

“I congratulate all those involved in the research, development, and construction of this facility with passion and commitment: the employees of DESY, European XFEL, and international partners. They have achieved outstanding results and demonstrated impressively what is possible in international cooperation. The European XFEL will provide us with the most detailed images of the molecular structure of new materials and drugs and novel live recordings of biochemical reactions” said Helmut Dosch, Chairman of the DESY Directorate

The European X-ray Laser has been brought to life!

The European XFEL has officially become the biggest operative laser in the entire world. According to XFEL Managing Director Professor Robert Feidenhans, this is a great accomplishment for them and their partners because they have worked on this for many years and now all their work has paid off since the laser has produced its first X-ray laser light.

The X-ray light has a wavelength of 0.8 nm which is about 500 times shorter than that of visible light. At the beginning of the test, the laser had a repetition rate of one pulse per second, which will later increase to 27 000 per second. This exceeds the capacity of any other X-ray laser existent, which was set to a maximum of 120 light flashes per second (instead of 27000).

The first Laser Light at the European XFEL, captured by an X-ray sensor at the end of the tunnel. Image credit: DESY.

“The European X-ray laser has been brought to life! 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. This worldwide unique high-tech facility was built in record time and within budget. This is an amazing success of science,” said Helmut Dosch.

The facility where the XFEL generated its first laser light is located in Hamburg at the DESY research center, which is the largest shareholder of the European XFEL. Most of it is underground. It has a 2.1-kilometer long accelerator tunnel with yellow superconducting accelerator modules hanging from the ceiling. The DESY put the accelerator into operation last April.

The 3.4 km long XFEL is the most powerful X-ray laser now. It can generate the short pulses of hard X-ray light. The incredible luminosity will allow scientists to perform their experiments and investigations more quickly.

Source: Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY