To generate the extremely short and intense X-ray laser flashes, bunches of high-energy electrons are directed through special arrangements of magnets (undulators). Image: European XFEL
to record bursts of images at an unprecedented speed of 4.5 million
frames per second, an innovative X-ray camera being built with the expertise of the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) will help a major new research
facility shed light on the structure of matter.
The device will be delivered to the billion-euro European XFEL
(X-ray Free-Electron Laser) next year and will contribute to drug
discovery and other vital research once this facility starts operating
go-ahead for continuation of the £3 million prototype collaboration
contract for the camera’s construction has been confirmed following a
visit to STFC by a delegation from the European XFEL’s Detector Advisory
under construction near Hamburg in Northern Germany, the European XFEL
is a 2-mile-long facility that will use superconducting accelerator
technology to accelerate electrons which then generate X-ray flashes a
billion times brighter than those produced by conventional X-ray
sources. Each flash will last less than one hundred million billionth of
a second. With the properties of laser light, these short, intense
flashes will, for example, make it possible to take 3D
X-ray images of single molecules.
Current X-ray cameras are designed to capture images when matter
is bombarded by a constant beam of X-rays. But the extreme brevity and
intensity of the flashes produced by the European XFEL means such
cameras will not be suitable for use at the new facility.
new device, which is being built in collaboration with University of
Glasgow, is specifically designed to work in conjunction with
hyper-short, hyper-brilliant X-ray flashes. It will be installed in one
of the first experimental endstations incorporated in the European XFEL.
device will help ensure that the European XFEL provides a unique
opportunity for science and industry to understand matter and its
behaviour, mapping the atomic details of viruses, for instance, or
pinpointing the molecular composition of individual cells.
delighted that the European XFEL has turned to STFC to build this
pioneering camera. It demonstrates how the UK can provide the high-tech
excellence that world markets need, leading to scientific advances that
make a real difference to people’s lives,” says Dr. Tim Nicholls of
“The European XFEL will represent a major step forward
in equipping Europe with a new generation of research infrastructure
that can meet the requirements of the 21st century. STFC’s unique skills
are creating an imaging device which will help this remarkable facility
realise its vast potential,” says Dr.
Markus Kuster, group leader of European XFEL GmbH’s detector development.