For 50 years, scientists have been conducting research with synchrotron radiation at DESY – an extremely intensive and bundled X-ray light generated at particle accelerators. “DESY was one of the first places in the world specifically investigating the properties of this at that time very new light and recognising its potential for research,” says Professor Helmut Dosch, Chairman of the DESY Board of Directors. “In those days, the DESY pioneers did not only coin the development of our research centre but created the basis for the global success story of a whole research discipline.”
It was in 1964, when the first measurements started at the just completed ring accelerator DESY to characterise the synchrotron radiation. Initiated by these first experiments and visionary decisions of the then directorate, the use of synchrotron radiation rapidly gathered speed at DESY and all over the world. Already the following accelerator DORIS, after an extended period of parallel use by particle and photon physicists, was exclusively operated for research with synchrotron light for 18 years. At this light source equipped with up to 43 experimental stations, a researchers’ community quickly developed, consisting of permanent guests as the Max Planck working groups and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory EMBL and temporary visiting scientists from many German and international universities. Among others, Nobel Prize laureate Professor Ada Yonath carried out numerous experiments at the DORIS accelerator to identify the structure of the ribosome.
The World’s Most Brilliant Synchrotron Radiation Source
Successively, at a test facility at DESY, the feasibility of a free-electron laser in the X-ray range was demonstrated and resulted in the free-electron Laser FLASH which is available as a user facility to researchers since 2005. In 2009, the PETRA III storage ring went into operation as the world’s most brilliant third generation synchrotron radiation source. “Today, with PETRA III and the free-electron laser FLASH, DESY operates two real flagships of synchrotron research,” says Research Director Professor Edgar Weckert. “Every year, far more than 2000 users from more than 40 nations come to DESY to use these excellent light sources.”
Globally Unique Research Facility To Be Expanded Further
The ensemble of light sources and the now 50-years of expertise in research with synchrotron radiation at DESY are unique in the world and give DESY a leading international position in research with X-ray light. Both, PETRA III and FLASH, are currently upgraded by ten and five new measuring stations, respectively, to meet the large global demand. The international X-ray laser European XFEL reaching from the DESY campus to the town of Schenefeld in Schleswig Holstein, which will allow to make high-speed movies at atomic resolution, will take up operation in 2016, thus completing the series of top-class synchrotron radiation research facilities in the Hamburg Metropolitan Region.
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