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Press release, 12 December 2008

Contracts awarded for European XFEL civil engineering works

Start of construction of the new research facility on 8 January 2009

Today, on 20 December 2008, the research centre DESY commissioned two consortia of renowned building contractors to construct the underground buildings (tunnels, shafts, halls) for the 3.4-kilometre-long X-ray laser facility European XFEL. The two contracts for the sites Schenefeld in the Pinneberg district (Schleswig-Holstein) and Osdorfer Born in Hamburg, which add up to nearly 206 million Euro, were awarded to the consortium Hochtief/Bilfinger Berger. The commission for the civil engineering works at the Hamburg site DESY-Bahrenfeld amounts to 36 million Euro and goes to the consortium Züblin/ Aug. Prien. Construction will officially start on 8 January. First activities for site set up may however take place before that date. The research centre DESY acts in place of the future not-for-profit company European XFEL GmbH, which is to be founded in spring 2009 and will be in charge of the construction and operation of the new research facility.

As the only research facility of its kind in Europe, the European XFEL (X stands for X-ray, FEL for free-electron laser) will produce high-intensity ultra-short X-ray flashes with the properties of laser light. This new light source, which can only be described in terms of superlatives, will open up a whole range of new perspectives for the natural sciences. It could also offer very promising opportunities for industrial users. The inconceivably brief and intense X-ray pulses will enable researchers to record what are essentially films with atomic resolution, for example, of how a chemical reaction progresses, how biomolecules move, or how solids are formed. This will benefit a wide range of natural sciences as well as industrial users – for instance for the development of new materials in the nanoworld; i.e., with dimensions measured in billionths of a metre. The new X-ray laser facility European XFEL will enable leading-edge research in Europe and guarantee a major role for Germany as a location for research and industry.

The 3.4-kilometre-long research facility will be located between the site of the research centre DESY in the Hamburg district of Bahrenfeld and the neighbouring town of Schenefeld in Schleswig-Holstein (Pinneberg district). It will begin on the DESY site, where the central supply stations will be situated. The main tunnel for the superconducting electron linear accelerator will take up the first 2.1 kilometres of the 6- to 38-metre-deep tunnel system. On the last kilometre, this tunnel will fan out into several separate tunnels in which the X-ray laser flashes will be generated and transferred to the experiment stations. The site Osdorfer Born, which will comprise another access and supply building, will be established at the beginning of this tunnel fan. The underground experiment hall at the end of the facility will be located on the future 15-hectar research campus in Schenefeld, and provide space for ten experiment stations. It will be 14 metres deep, with a surface area of 4500 square metres. The contracts that are being awarded today cover all civil engineering works. These comprise eight shafts leading into underground halls, the experiment hall itself and all the tunnels. The tunnel system has a total length of around 5.8 kilometres and will be constructed using tunnel boring machines.

Funding – The investment costs for the European X-ray laser facility amount to 986 million Euro (price levels of 2005). As the host country, Germany will cover up to 60 percent of the investment costs, at least 40 percent will be born by the international partner countries. (The details of the participation are still being negotiated with some of the partner countries.) Alongside the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the City of Hamburg and the German federal state of Schleswig-Holstein, 13 countries are participating in the facility: China, Denmark, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

The contents of the intergovernmental convention for the construction and operation of the European XFEL were adopted in September 2008. The 14 countries involved intend to sign this agreement on the foundation of the not-for-profit European XFEL GmbH, the limited liability company that will be responsible for the construction and operation of the European XFEL, in spring 2009. This will then be an independent research centre coordinated and funded at the European level, in which DESY as the German shareholder will play a major part. Commissioning of the European X-ray laser facility will begin in 2014, after a construction time of around 5.5 years.

Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY – The research centre DESY is one of the world’s leading accelerator centres for investigating the structure of matter. DESY develops, runs and uses accelerators and detectors for photon science and particle physics. DESY is a member of the Helmholtz Association, and a publicly funded national research centre with two locations, in Hamburg and in Zeuthen (Brandenburg). Research at the particle accelerators is carried out in international cooperation. More than 3000 scientists from 45 countries come to DESY every year to carry out their research. DESY has 1900 employees, 600 of which are working in the fields of accelerator operations, research and development. DESY’s yearly budget amounts to 183 million Euro, i.e. 166 million Euro for the Hamburg site and 17 million Euro for the Zeuthen site.

DESY / European XFEL, Hamburg, Germany