The world’s biggest X-ray laser generated its first light in Hamburg, Germany. The 3.4 kilometer (2.1 mi) long European X-ray Free Electron Laser (XFEL) produced a pulsing laser light with a wavelength of 0.8 nanometer, which is located in underground tunnels, has generated its first X-ray laser light.The X-ray light has a wavelength of 0.8 nm – about 500 times shorter than that of visible light. At first lasing, the laser had a repetition rate of one pulse per second, which will later increase to 27 000 per second.
The X-ray laser light of the European XFEL is extremely intense and a billion times brighter than that of conventional synchrotron light sources. The achievable laser light wavelength corresponds to the size of an atom and the X-rays can be used to reveal details of biomolecules, for example, from which better understandings of the basis of illnesses or the development of new therapies could be developed. Other opportunities include research into chemical processes and catalytic techniques, with the goal of improving their efficiency or making them more environmentally friendly; materials research; or the investigation of conditions similar to the interior of planets.
The X-ray laser light of the European XFEL was generated from an electron beam from a superconducting linear accelerator, which is the key component of the X-ray laser. The German research centre DESY, the largest shareholder of the European XFEL, put the accelerator into operation at the end of April.