Start for Europeanization of the X-Ray Laser Project at DESY

On February 2, 2004, the constituent meeting of the XFEL Steering Committee (SC-XFEL) took place in Darmstadt. Chairman of this steering committee is Dr. Hermann Schunck, Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The committee made it his business to realize a European collaboration for the planned XFEL project. The goal in 2005 is to sign a Memorandum of Understanding for the mutual funding of the construction and operation of the new research facility. This declaration of intent is a prerequisite for the final approval of the XFEL project. The X-ray laser should start commissioning in 2012.

Schema der XFEL-Anlage

Schematic layout of the planned European X-ray laser laboratory.

“This is the start for the Europeanization of the planned X-ray laboratory” commented Prof. Dr. Jochen R. Schneider, research director at DESY and XFEL project director. “It is of great importance that the countries intending to participate in the construction and operation of the XFEL are integrated in the design of the X-ray laser project in an early stage. Together with Germany, 11 countries are members in the committee, others may follow”. The ten member countries are Denmark, France, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

The steering committee came into existence on the initiative of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), its members being high level government representatives. Its general goal is “to promote and shape the process of finally setting up a consortium for the construction and operation of the proposed XFEL Laboratory”. Main tasks for the coming 18 month are to elaborate the concrete participation of the countries in the project, to set up an European organizational scheme and to work out the final technical design report with technical parameters and an updated cost estimate. This report will form the basis for the agreement of governments to build and operate the European XFEL facility.

The steering committee will be assisted by two working groups. Members are representatives from all the countries intending to contribute, and the first meeting will be held in March at DESY: the Working Group on Scientific and Technical Issues (STI-XFEL) with chairman Prof. Francesco Sette, Research Director at ESRF in Grenoble, and the Working Group on Administrative and Funding Issues (AFI-XFEL) with chairman Dr. Hermann-Friedrich Wagner, Federal Ministry of Research. The main task of the STI working group is to reach consensus on the scientific goals and the overall layout of the facility. The agenda of the AFI working group includes a legal framework, an organizational scheme and a model for funding.

The free-electron X-ray laser XFEL was approved on February 5, 2003 in a fundamental decision of the German Federal Government on condition that it is to be realized as a European project and approx. 50 percent of the costs are to be born by other countries. The facility with a length of approx. 3 kilometers will begin at DESY in Hamburg and end in an experimental hall located in Schenefeld, Schleswig Holstein. It is unique in Europe and will guarantee a major role for Germany as a location for research and industry. The total costs estimate in 2001 amounted to 684 million Euro. As a “light source of superlatives” the XFEL will offer new prospects for natural sciences basic research and also for industrial users. With its high-intensity ultra-short X-ray laser flashes it will be possible to essentially film at the atomic level and with atomic resolution the properties of materials and biomolecules. This opens up new perspectives for the future, e.g. for the development of tailor-made materials in the nano region needed in electronics or new and more effective medicaments.

More about the X-ray free-electron laser XFEL