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European XFEL accelerator reaches its design energy

Accelerator accelerates electrons to 17.5 GeV for the first time

The European XFEL has for the first time accelerated electrons to a level higher than that of any other X-ray free-electron laser in the world so far. This week, the superconducting European XFEL linear accelerator brought electrons to its originally specified 17.5 GeV. Since its initial commissioning in 2017 to 14.9 GeV, the accelerator has been further ramped up in terms of energy gradually. Staff and operators of the DESY accelerator division now powered up the last part of the 96-module accelerator and managed to accelerate electrons beyond the previous benchmark. “This is a tremendous success for the superconducting technology that has been pioneered by DESY and its international partners over the last three decades.”, says Winfried Decking, head of XFEL accelerator operation. DESY has led the international consortium out of 16 renowned accelerator institutes and universities that constructed the largest superconducting linear accelerator of the world. DESY is today European XFEL’s closest partner and responsible for the operation of the superconducting linac..

Screenshot of the European XFEL accelerator control display showing the electron energy at 17.5 GeV (here shown in the units megaelectronvolts, as 17583 MeV, picture: DESY accelerator team).
The accelerator of an X-ray free-electron laser like European XFEL provides the high energy electrons that are later used for generating intense, ultrashort laser pulses. Initial user experiments are designed to work with light generated from electrons up to 14 GeV. In the future, the accelerator will operate at an energy range between 8 and 17.5 GeV, depending on experiment requirements. The increased energy range of the accelerator will enable the European XFEL to generate a wider range of energies of X-ray laser light, giving users more flexibility in their methods and the possibility to attempt techniques not before possible at other free-electron lasers. The superconducting TESLA accelerator technology provides a second factor for the outstanding capabilities of the European XFEL: it allows for acceleration of up to 27 000 electron bunches per second, producing 27 000 X-ray laser flashes per second compared to the up to 120 flashes at X-ray lasers with conventional accelerator technology.