Europe presents the world’s most powerful X-ray laser


The world’s most powerful X-ray laser has begun operating at a facility where scientists will try to recreate the conditions inside the sun and produce sequences of viruses and cells similar to those of a film.

The machine, called the X-ray laser (XFEL), acts as a high-speed camera that can capture images of individual atoms in a few millionths of a billionths of a second. Unlike a conventional camera, however, every X-ray laser is erased – its beam is 100 times more intense than if all sunlight striking the surface of the Earth focused on a single miniature.

The facility near Hamburg, housed in a series of underground tunnels of up to 38 meters, will allow scientists to explore the architecture of viruses and cells, create nerve-wrapping films of chemical reactions as deeper conditions replicate and replicate. the stars and the planets.

Scientists are already engaged in an intense competitive bidding process to be the first to get time in their six light lines.

“The laser is the largest and most powerful source of X-rays ever made,” said Olivier Napoly, a member of France’s Atomic Energy Commission, who helped build the complex.

XFEL is the world’s third X-ray laser installation – projects in Japan and the USA. have already made great strides in structural biology and materials science. The European beam is more powerful, but the most significant is that it has a much higher pulse frequency than any of its predecessors.

“They can send 100 pulses per second, we can send 27,000,” said Robert Feidenhan’l, president of the European board of directors of XFEL.

This is important because to study chemical reactions or biological processes, the X-ray stroboscope is used to capture flashing snapshots of the same system at different time points that can be sewn together in a film sequence.

At XFEL, scientists will be able to gather data at a much faster rate and lose less of the action between shots.

Allen Orville, who heads the XFEL center at the UK’s Diamond Light Source, is one of the first users to start collecting data in two weeks. Orville focuses on understanding the molecular mechanics of how enzymes make antibiotics, such as penicillin, with the ultimate goal of being able to develop new ways to produce antibiotics in the future.