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A SUPERLATIVE RESEARCH FACILITY - THE EUROPEAN XFEL X-RAY LASER

European XFEL is an international research facility of superlatives: 27,000 flashes of light per second with a luminosity that is billions of times higher than that of the best conventional X-ray sources open up a wide range of new research opportunities. At the European XFEL teams of scientists from all over the world examine structures in the nano range, ultra-fast processes and extreme states of matter, take three-dimensional images of viruses and proteins and can film chemical reactions.

The X-ray laser European XFEL is located in underground tunnels and halls. It is over three kilometers long and extends from the DESY site in Hamburg to Schenefeld in Schleswig-Holstein, where the European XFEL research campus is located with a large experimental hall (Image 1). The billion-dollar project is an international undertaking in which eleven other countries are involved including Germany, Russia, France and Italy. DESY is the main shareholder and works closely with European XFEL to operate the facility. Together with international partners, DESY built, among other things, the heart of the X-ray laser system – the 1.7 kilometer long superconducting accelerator with the electron source that DESY now also operates.

The accelerator of the European XFEL brings electrons almost to the speed of light and then shoots them through long undulators. These special magnets force the electrons on slalom tracks, which means that the particles emit extremely short and powerful X-ray flashes. Unlike the X-ray pulses from a storage ring, these flashes have laser properties – which makes certain experiments possible such as the recording of holograms.

Researchers from a wide variety of disciplines benefit from the new super laser: biologists take detailed images of cell components, individual protein molecules and viruses. The results can help in disease control and targeted drug design. Chemists film reactions and recognize how individual atoms react with one another. With this knowledge  industrially relevant catalysts can be optimized.

Physicists and materials scientists are studying the exact structure of nanomaterials – important materials for the future. For example for more effective solar modules and fuel cells as well as for future data storage devices.

Since the start of construction in 2014 Genkinger-bAKA special devices have been used gradually. The first device was a crane vehicle that had to be compact enough to be lowered into the tunnel by an elevator. At that point in time the tunnel had been completely drilled and provided with a floor made of concrete slabs (Image 2). The ESP 50 was used to lift and position the magnets on the base (Image 3). The EE-WW with a manipulator made it possible to install and remove concrete blocks in the tunnel (Image 4). In March 2021 an EGU for the transport of klystrons, which are used to generate and amplify microwaves, was delivered (Image 5). A total of 12 special vehicles were built for the European XFEL tunnels and delivered to DESY.

Facts and figures European project with strong participation from DESY

  • Construction and operation: European XFEL (non-profit)
  • Free electron laser with superconducting linear accelerator in TESLA technology
  • Total length: approx. 3.4 km
  • generates extremely brilliant laser radiation in the X-ray range according to the SASE principle (wavelength adjustable between 0.1 and 6 nanometers)
  • in operation since 2017
  • 12 Genkinger-bAKA special devices participated in the construction

Sources:
Broschure European XFEL (2018): Licht der Zukunft. S.5.
Homepage DESY (2020): https://www.desy.de/forschung/anlagen__projekte/european_xfel/index_ger.html.

Images:
DESY
Genkinger GmbH