Technology transfer

Even in the construction phase, European XFEL stimulated the development of some high-technology industrial sectors in the participating countries. To achieve the demanding performance indispensable for the European XFEL, the fabrication of many components required all the sophisticated know-how of the contributing research labs; on the other hand, these components need to be produced in large series by industry.

For example 800 accelerator resonant cavities, made of a metal called niobium, were needed, plus some pre-series and spare ones. The order was split between two industrial companies that equipped themselves with the necessary infrastructure and were extensively trained through the pre-series production, under the guidance of experts from DESY and from the Italian research agency INFN. The underlying TESLA technology, developed at DESY, is now emerging as a standard for superconducting linear accelerators worldwide, for applications not only in FELs but also in other research infrastructures, such as spallation neutron sources and high-energy physics colliders.

The niobium resonating cavities used for the superconducting linear accelerator set a new standard for accelerator technology around the world. (Photo: Heiner Müller-Elsner / DESY)

Another area in which the European XFEL has been stimulating a considerable development effort is in detector devices. In order to take complete advantage of the European XFEL’s high number of pulses per second, the detector (essentially a digital camera for X-rays) must be able to record a high-quality image from the sensor, transfer it to a temporary memory medium, clear the image from the sensor, and be ready for the next one – all in an extremely short period of time. The temporary memory storage has been designed and prototyped with a capacity for several hundreds of images and with the objective to reach a few thousand in the future. All this requires great sophistication and expertise, so a number of European laboratories were involved in the development of prototypes. Advanced electronic integrated circuits were designed and their fabrication was given out to companies. Some features of the imaging detectors with very high read-out speed will be of interest not only for future high repetition rate FELs but also for research with synchrotrons, and possibly other areas, including commercial electronic devices, where speed of data progressing and of data storage and recovery could open up new business opportunities.