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Scientific Instrument SPB/SFX

The Single Particles, Clusters, and Biomolecules & Serial Femtosecond Crystallography (SPB/SFX) instrument of the European XFEL is primarily concerned with three-dimensional diffractive imaging, and three-dimensional structure determination, of micrometre-scale and smaller objects, at atomic or near-atomic–resolution.

A particular emphasis is placed on biological objects—including crystals of macromolecules and macromolecular complexes as well as viruses, organelles, and cells—though the instrument will also be capable of investigating non-biological samples using similar techniques. Furthermore, the SPB/SFX instrument aims to study structural dynamics in these biological systems on the millisecond to femtosecond timescale.

The SPB/SFX instrument consists of two experimental endstations (upstream and downstream), based on the combined contributions of European XFEL and the Serial Femtosecond Crystallography (SFX) user consortium.

Instrument specifications

Key (expected) features

Electron bunch charge

50–1000 pC

Photon energy range

3–16 keV (upstream), 6–16 keV (downstream), up to 25 keV (3rd harmonic)


0.1% (SASE bandwidth, no monochromator installed)

Pulse energy

Up to 4 mJ (depending on photon energy)

Pulse duration

5–300 fs (depending on photon energy and bunch charge)


linear (horizontal)

Focus size

~1 µm or ~0.1 µm upstream, 1 µm downstream

X-ray optics

upstream interaction region: micro-focus KB mirror system, nano-focus KB mirror system (photon energy range: 3–16 keV, best 5–16 keV)

downstream interaction region: compound refractive lenses (photon energy range: 6–16 keV, best 8–16 keV)

Sample delivery

fixed-target stage system, liquid/aerosol/gas injection systems


AGIPD 1 Mpx (upstream), AGIPD 4 Mpx (downstream)


Fundamental wavelengths 800 nm (15 fs pulse duration) and 1030 nm (500 ps, after compression 850 fs) available, conversion to visible and UV via OPA/SHG/THG/FHG possible, pulse energy µJ–mJ (depending on repetition rate)