First scientific instrument component installed in experiment hall
Support tower for the FXE instrument’s high-precision robot set in hutch
Amidst the construction of several instrument enclosures in the European XFEL experiment hall, the first instrument component also has been installed successfully. A 3-t, almost 4-m-tall support tower for a high-precision robot, which will hold a sensitive detector for the Femtosecond X-Ray Experiments (FXE) instrument, was delivered and erected in its final position in its hutch. With the installation of this tower, the physical setup of the six starting scientific instruments at European XFEL has now kicked off.
With the help of the European XFEL experiment hall engineer and under the guidance of the FXE engineer, the FXE group craned in, carefully positioned, secured, and bolted together the two massive pieces of the tower, which nearly reaches the ceiling of the FXE experiment hutch. To commemorate the assembly, FXE scientist Andreas Galler inscribed a dedication for the instrument in between the two halves of the tower, which was signed by all other people involved in its setup.
The robot that will soon be mounted on the tower will hold a detector to be used in some of the instrument’s many possible experimental configurations. The samples to be studied will be positioned close to the tower, with the robot suspended directly overhead. The robot will rotate to different positions around the sample, allowing the detector to collect the reflected X-rays from various points. The tower’s robustness is required to keep the robot stabilized in all possible orientations around the sample such that the scientists would know the detector’s position to at least a 50-micrometre (0.05 mm) precision.
The tower and the robot are in-kind contributions from Denmark and were developed in collaboration with the Danish company JJ X-Ray. The robot will be installed along with other sensitive components after the construction of the enclosure is completed. Installations at FXE are due to finish next year, followed by an intensive testing phase, and the instrument is expected to have its first users in 2017.
The FXE instrument will be a state-of-the-art experiment station for femtochemistry, the field that studies chemical reactions at timescales of around a quadrillionth of a second. The instrument will be capable of capturing the intermediate states of chemical reactions at a better time resolution than ever previously possible, paving the way for molecular movies of changes occurring as reactions happen. The results could potentially lead to many new technologies, such as designing better medications or creating methods of capturing or storing solar energy based on photosynthesis.
“Now we clearly see that years of planning are finally coming to reality”, says Galler. “You cannot imagine how excited we are to put everything together and bring the FXE instrument to life.”