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XFEL starts commissioning world’s biggest X-ray laser

Hamburg Metropolitan Region set for leading role in X-ray research with EUR 1.5 billion XFEL research plant

The European XFEL, a large international research facility involving eleven European member countries, began commissioning Thursday (October 6th) a 3.4-km long underground X-ray laser. The laser can generate extremely short and bright X-ray light flashes that enable new views of the structure and fast processes in the nanocosmos. Around 350 guests from politics, the diplomatic corps, scientists from all over the world, and employees of European XFEL and DESY celebrated this watershed on the new campus in Schenefeld, Schleswig-Holstein.

User operation to begin in summer 2017

Representatives of the partner countries mounted an approximately two-metre-long beamline tube in the underground tunnel near the experiment hall to symbolise the installation of one last piece of the X-ray laser. Commissioning will occur during the coming months. Scientists will be able to perform experiments at the facility in summer 2017. Katharina Fegebank, Hamburg’s Second Mayor and Senator for Education, Research, and Equality, said: “We have been waiting for this day: The European XFEL is heading into its test phase. With the start of user operation in summer 2017, the research facility will elevate the Hamburg Metropolitan Region to the highest order of research with free-electron lasers. The ultra intense X-ray flashes of the European XFEL will make new views of chemical and biological processes possible. That brings hope for the development of new medicines and materials. And that means new products, new job opportunities, growth and prosperity. These are good perspectives for science and society!”

One of the biggest European research projects

The fields of application range from structural biology, chemistry, physics and materials sciences to environmental and energy research or investigating conditions in the interior of planets. Poland’s Vice Minister for Science and Education, Dr. Piotr Dardziński, said: “This is an important day for the advancement of science. The end of construction and start of commissioning the European XFEL is great news for many researchers in Europe and beyond.”

The European XFEL works closely with DESY and other international institutions. From summer 2017, it will employ around 280 people. The facility is over three kilometres in length and runs from DESY’s site in Hamburg to Schenefeld.

The project has cost EUR 1.5 billion so far and is one of biggest and most ambitious research projects in Europe. The European XFEL GmbH was founded especially for this purpose. Germany, Denmark, France, Italy, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Slovakia, Spain and Hungary are taking part in this venture. Germany (Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the states of Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein) are footing 58 per cent of the costs while Russia is paying 27 per cent of them. The other countries are paying 3 per cent .

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