International X-Ray Laser European XFEL Inaugurated
European XFEL, the largest and most powerful X-ray laser in the world, was officially inaugurated on Friday September 1st in an international event with musical and enlightening highlights. Research ministers and other prominent guests from across Europe joined the European XFEL Managing Directors to officially start the research operation of the facility with the first two experiments.
Prof. Dr. Johanna Wanka, German Minister for Education and Research, stressed the importance of the new international research facility: “The establishment of the European XFEL has created a unique cutting-edge research facility, which promises groundbreaking insights into the nanocosmos. The foundations for tomorrow’s innovations are laid by today’s basic research.”
European XFEL Managing Director Prof. Dr. Robert Feidenhans’l said: “We are proud to be opening the strongest X-ray laser in the world and start doing science together with our user community. The European XFEL is a unique facility that will open the door to new areas of science.”
Prof. Dr. Helmut Dosch, Chairman of the DESY Board of Directors, said: “What started as a vision and was set in motion at DESY more than 20 years ago has now become a reality: the world’s most powerful laser for X-ray light. Now scientists from around the world will conduct research at this most advanced high-speed camera for the nanocosmos in the world, and I wish them many exciting results – both fundamental and revolutionary.”
The European XFEL produces extremely bright and ultrashort light pulses. The facility will generate up to 27 000 pulses per second – 200 times more than other X-ray lasers. With the help of specialized instruments, these X-rays enable completely new insights into the atomic details and extremely fast processes of the nanoworld. Scientists will use these X-ray flashes to, for example, map the three-dimensional structure of biomolecules and other biological particles, and do so faster and with more detail than has ever been previously possible. Furthermore, single snapshots of particles produced with the X-ray laser can be sewn together to create “molecular movies” to study the progress of biochemical and chemical reactions – the basis for the development of new medicines and therapies or environmentally friendlier production methods and processes for extracting energy from sunlight.
Other applications lie in the field of materials science with the development of new materials and substances, in the optimization of storage media for computers or the investigation of extreme matter conditions such as those found within exoplanets.