XFEL: Third user run successfully completed, fourth starting soon

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Third user run successfully completed, fourth starting soon

Around 600 scientists visit the facility for experiments during user period

The third user experiment period at European XFEL, which ran from November 2018, was successfully completed in June 2019. The X-ray beam was available for experiments for a total of 18 weeks. Twenty-eight user experiments were carried out at all six instruments, and 599 users were welcomed to the facility.

While only two instruments were operational at the beginning of the run, a further four started operation during the period, so that all six instruments were operational by the end of the run. Many other systems also had to first be prepared so that everything worked together. This included the accelerator and electron beam system, which could distribute the beam on demand to the different light sources. Other systems that were optimized to reach the goal of parallel operation of all three beamlines included the X-ray optics and diagnostic systems in the tunnels, elements at the instruments themselves that deal with the X-ray beam and specimen delivery, detectors, and software and data storage systems.

“We can be really proud of what we achieved”, said Scientific Director Thomas Tschentscher. “We have brought four new science instruments into a state where first user experiments could be allocated and performed, and we managed to successfully run experiments in parallel on the beamlines. This was no small feat, and we are pleased with the performance of the instruments.  Many people and groups worked closely together to ensure that all these systems are running smoothly. It is a tremendous achievement to get here, and we thank everyone involved for their hard work.”

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The MID experiment station was one of the four to begin user operation during user run 3. (Photo: European XFEL / Jan Hosan)

For the first time, experiments were performed in parallel on different beamlines. This is an important and crucial step towards full operation capacity at European XFEL. In the future, parallel operation of the three existing beamlines is foreseen to be the standard way of operating. This greatly increases the research capacity of the facility.

In the 1.7 km long European XFEL accelerator, bunches of electrons are accelerated to nearly the speed of light. A so-called “beam kicker” then kicks the bunches of electrons into each of the first beamline tunnels; bunches being pushed into either the SASE1 or SASE2 beamline tunnels. Here, the electrons are used to produce X-rays in a series of magnets known as undulators. Electrons are also passed through the shorter SASE3 soft X-ray undulator, which is adjacent to SASE1.

With all instruments now operational, the focus will turn to improving and increasing the capabilities and performance of the six instruments. Following a short break for maintenance and further commissioning, users are returning for experiments at the beginning of August.