Hamburg News - Docklands © Datenland Architektursimulation / Erik Recke
European XFEL © Dominik Böcker

Light and laser installation marks start of world’s brightest X-ray laser

Countdown to opening of X-ray laser on Friday - installation visible until September 3

Five, 50 metre-high laser lights began shining westwards Monday (August 28, 2017) across Hamburg’s skyline to Schenefeld where the world’s brightest X-ray light goes into user operation on Friday. The laser and the message projected onto the Kaispeicher warehouse at the base of the Elbphilharmonie welcomes European XFEL to the Hamburg Metropolitan Region. The lasers were set off from the Elbphilharmonie, the Philosopher’s Tower at the University of Hamburg, the E-Hochhaus building at the Hamburg University of Arts and Sciences (HAW Hamburg), the Hamburg Planetarium, and the offices of the Hamburg Department of Science, Research, and Equality (BWFG). In Schenefeld, five other lasers at the same height lit up the tunnel fan’s underground path at European XFEL. The installation over Hamburg’s night skies lasts until 1 am and will be staged every night until September 3.

Seat of cutting-edge research

Katharina Fegebank, Senator of Science, Research, and Equality, said: “Hamburg shines today and in the next few days particularly brightly for science – we are extremely proud that the European XFEL has found its home in the Hamburg Metropolitan Region. This shows how well versed we are in providing the basic framework for cutting-edge research. For the next years, the European XFEL will ensure that Hamburg is the world’s best location for research into the structure of matter and gives the Bahrenfeld Research Campus as a whole a big boost.”

The 100-watt strong green laser from the Elbphilharmonie can be seen from a distance of up to 24 kilometres. The message “Welcome European XFEL”, displayed in the eleven languages of the partner countries of the international research facility, is projected onto the Kaiserspeicher.

European XFEL: “Elbphilharmonie of science”

Prof. Robert Feidenhans’l, Managing Director of European XFEL, said: “We are excited about this bright welcome from Hamburg. This adds more momentum to the preparation for user operation, towards which we are working with all of our energy. For a few days, the light installation draws attention to what most people can’t see under the ground: an 'Elbphilharmonie of Science’ that can, in concert with other research facilities in the metropolitan region, set new international standards.”

Eleven nations undertaking international research in region

Eleven countries including Denmark, Germany, France, Italy, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Slovakia, Spain and Hungary are taking part in European XFEL. Britain is currently in the process of joining the project. Germany’s Ministry of Education and Research and the states of Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein are funding 58 per cent of the costs, Russia 27 per cent while the other partner countries are footing 1 to 3 per cent of the costs.

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About European XFEL

The Hamburg Metropolitan Region can now boast a research facility of superlatives: The European XFEL will generate ultra short X-ray flashes – 27,000 times per second and with a brilliance that is a billion times higher than that of the best conventional X-ray radiation sources. The facility’s outstanding characteristics are unique worldwide. From 2017, it will open up completely new research opportunities for scientists and industrial users. They can use the X-ray flashes of the European XFEL to map the atomic details of viruses, decipher the molecular composition of cells, take three-dimensional images of the nanoworld, film chemical reactions, and study processes such as those occurring deep inside planets. The European XFEL GmbH is a non-profit research organization that works closely with DESY resarch centre and other international institutions and has around 300 employees. Construction and operating costs of around EUR 1.5 billion make European XFEL one of the largest and most ambitious research projects in Europe. More information can be found on: