World’s Biggest X- Ray Laser Will Open In September

Posted: Aug 31 2017, 12:01pm CDT | by , Updated: Aug 31 2017, 12:04pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
World’s Biggest X- Ray Laser will Open in September
The tunnel system of the European XFEL X-ray Free Electron laser near Hamburg. Credit: Heiner Müller-Elsner

European XFEL can generate extremely intense X-ray flashes, which are a billion times brighter than conventional light sources

After eight years of construction, the world’s biggest X-ray laser will become fully operational this Friday.

The European X-Ray Free-Electron Laser or European XFEL is a 3.4-kilometer-long research facility in the Hamburg area, Germany. It is located mainly in underground tunnels and is capable of generating extremely intense X-ray flashes, up to 27 000 pulses per second. That’s a billion times brighter than the best current radiation sources. The X-ray pulses of the new laser system are so intense that they destroy the samples they hit but not before revealing their atomic structure.

Once up and running, the laser will expand scientists’ view of how nature works on the atomic level and its pulses will create film-like sequences that can record these changes as never before. The laser will have significant implications for a wide variety of fields including medicine, biology, energy, information technology and chemistry.

"The laser is the biggest, and the most powerful, source of X-rays ever made," Olivier Napoly from French Atomic Energy Commission, who helped build the complex, said in a statement.

The facility will be accessible to researchers from all over the world and will enable them to collect more than 3,000 good-quality X-ray pictures, compared with 100 or so at other facilities, opening up completely new opportunities of observations at ultrafast timescales.

“Having lots of data matters, and the European XFEL will deliver it in truckloads.” Abbas Ourmazd, a physicist at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee said.

With construction costs of more than 1.22 billion euro or $1.7 billion, the European XFEL is the result of an international agreement inked in 2009. Current participants include Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, making it one of the largest European research projects to date.

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