World’s Biggest X-ray Laser Generates Its First Light

Posted: May 5 2017, 10:45pm CDT | by , Updated: May 5 2017, 10:49pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
World’s Biggest X-ray Laser Generates its First Light
First Laser Light at the European XFEL, recorded by an X-ray detector at the end of the tunnel. Credit: DESY

The laser will generate extremely intense X-ray flashes up to 27 000 pulses per second when officially begin operation

The world’s biggest X-ray laser has been turned on for the first time. The first ever pulse lasted one second at the wavelength of 0.8 nanometers. The frequency is expected to increase up to 27 000 flashes per second when it officially begins operation. The x-ray, named European XFEL, will become fully operational in September this year and will help provide researchers unprecedented details of the atomic world.

“This is an important moment that our partners and we have worked towards for many years. The European XFEL has generated its first X-ray laser light. The facility, to which many countries around the world contributed know-how and components, has passed its first big test with flying colors.” European XFEL Managing Director Prof. Robert Feidenhans'l said in a statement.

The European X-ray Free-Electron Laser is a 3.4-kilometer-long research facility constructed in Hamburg, Germany. The facility is located in underground tunnels and is capable of producing extremely intense light, a billion times brighter than that of a conventional X-ray radiation source. For comparison, the previous most powerful x-ray laser could produce a maximum of 120 flashes per second.

With such faster and intense x-ray light, the new X-ray laser will open up entirely new research opportunities for scientists that were never possible before. The facility will allow researchers to observe the work of nature at the tinniest scale, capture detailed images of rapid processes, investigate delicate samples that are beyond the reach of other light sources and gather more data in less time, thus increasing the number of experiments that can be performed in a lab. This will also tremendously improve researcher's ability to understand basis of illnesses or the development of new treatments or therapies.

“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.” Helmut Dosch, Chairman of the DESY Directorate said.

The European XFEL is a joint effort of 11 countries and will be accessible to researchers all over the world. Its construction was started in early 2009 while user operation is expected to begin in 2017.

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