The world’s most powerful X-ray laser, European XFEL, is all set to be unveiled on September 1st, 2017 in Germany.
In June 2007, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research granted permission to build the facility. The body provided a fund of 850 million Euro for the project. There was only one condition – this facility would be built and financed as a European project. The construction for the facility began in 2009 and by 2012 the construction of the tunnels for the facility had been completed. The project is run by European XFEL GmbH, which was found in 2009.
There are 11 countries that are participating in the project. They are: Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. The first laser pulses were produced in May 2017.
Currently, US National Accelerator Laboratory in Stanford, California has the most powerful X-ray. It will be “dethroned” by September 2017.
The European XFEL is 3.4km long. It is capable of generating extremely intense X-ray flashes. These flashes will be produced in the underground tunnels that have been constructed. The X-ray is meant for the use of the scientific community from across the world and not just the participating nations. Researchers note that these X-ray flashes that will be produced will reveal secrets at the subatomic level. The scientific community is confident that this X-ray will lead to breakthroughs in a multitude of sectors including medicine, information technology, biology, energy and chemistry. Scientists can use this X-ray, which can also capture images, to map atomic details of viruses, film chemical reactions, and study the processes in the interior of planets.
The facility is located in the German federal states of Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein.
Prof. Martin Meedom Nielsen, chairman of the European XFEL Council said, "The member states are very pleased and excited about the great achievements made at the European XFEL, which mean we can now start the operation phase of this world-leading X-ray science facility. This major milestone has been eagerly awaited by the international user community, who are busily preparing for experiments that will break new scientific ground. I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the European XFEL management and staff, and to the accelerator consortium led by DESY, for their dedication and hard work.”
Bundles of electrons are first accelerated to high energies near the speed of light in order to generate the lasers. These electrons gradually gather into a multitude of ultra-thin discs, allowing them to emit their light in sync and produce extremely short, intense X-ray flashes of laser light.
Our assessment is that such technological advances ought to be welcomed by the international community. This facility holds the promise of being home to future breakthroughs in a number of vital fields including medicine.