The signal has been given for the construction of the XFEL European X-Ray Free-Electron Laser Project. High-ranking representatives from the partner states met in Hamburg on Tuesday at the invitation of Federal Research Minister Annette Schavan to announce the start of this worldwide unique research project. It is planned to start the first construction phase of the XFEL costing 850 million euro. Germany’s international partners will contribute at least 25 percent of this sum. The German contribution of up to 75 percent will be provided jointly by the Federal Government and the host Länder of Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein.
“The launch of the X-ray laser is a good example of successful strategic partnerships,” said Research Minister Annette Schavan in her speech before guests at the launch ceremony, who included Hamburg’s First Mayor Ole von Beust, Schleswig-Holstein’s Minister-President Peter Harry Carstensen, the French Research Minister Valérie Pécresse and her Russian colleague Andrej Fursenko. “I am delighted that the launch of this ambitious project is taking place under the German EU Council Presidency,” Schavan added. “It is a milestone for scientists in Europe.”
The partner countries declared in a communiqué, which they signed in Hamburg on Tuesday: “We are convinced that it is appropriate to begin the construction of the XFEL as quickly as possible in view of the international competition situation.” The document also states: “We consider that the XFEL is an important element for further shaping the European Research Area which will offer scientists from Europe and the whole world outstanding opportunities for conducting research on matter.”
Minister Schavan said: “By launching the European XFEL we are kicking off a development whose full scientific potential is not yet even foreseeable.” Researchers intend to use the X-ray laser to film chemical reactions, decipher the atomic structure of molecules and capture three-dimensional images of the nanocosmos. “Europe can only succeed in the global research competition if it cooperates on a basis of partnership,” Minister Schavan continued. “Here it is not merely a matter of co-financing projects. It is also decisive to pool the competencies of engineers and scientists.”
The 3.4 kilometre X-ray laser begins on the site of the German Electron Synchrotron (DESY) in Hamburg-Bahrenfeld and runs from there mostly underground to the town of Schenefeld in Schleswig-Holstein, where a completely new research centre is to be built.“The new research plant will make the entire region more attractive internationally,” said the Minister.“I am grateful to the governments of Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein for supporting this project – not only idealistically and with great commitment, but also with considerable funds.”
The European XFEL will be the world’s brightest X-ray light source.The plant will accelerate electrons to a very high energy so that they generate intensive X-ray laser flashes. These can help researchers to gain new insights into the structure of matter. The plant will attract outstanding researchers from throughout the world.
Intensive cooperation at the XFEL between the best brains will lead to success in the international research competition. It will also enable those countries to participate in forward-looking experiments which would otherwise not be able to manage such projects by their own efforts.
The decision to launch the first construction phase marks the start of a crucial stage in the evolution of the X-ray laser. The next steps are the release of the calls for the necessary civil engineering work and – presumably before the end of the year – the signing of the agreed Convention which is intended to lead to the founding of the XFEL GmbH as the company which will build and operate the facility. Finally, it is anticipated that the commissioning of the XFEL will begin in 2013.
The concept for the XFEL was developed by the German Electron Synchrotron (DESY) working in cooperation with international partners. The Memorandum of Understanding for the preliminary phase of the XFEL was signed by a total of 13 countries (China, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Hungary).
With its FLASH research plant, DESY is already operating the world’s first free-electron laser for soft X-ray beams with high brightness and ultra-short light pulses. DESY is a publicly funded national research centre with two locations: Hamburg and Zeuthen (in Brandenburg). The Federal Republic of Germany provides 90 percent of funding and the remaining 10 percent are provided by the City of Hamburg and the Land of Brandenburg (Zeuthen location). DESY is a member of the Hermann von Helmholtz Association of National Research Centres.
Further information on the XFEL X-ray laser can be found at http://www.xfel.net. Further information on European research policy and the German EU Council Presidency can be found at www.bmbf.deand www.eu2007.de.
Annex: Text of the communiqué on the launch of the XFEL
Representatives of the XFEL partner countries have met in Hamburg today, 5 June 2007, to jointly announce the beginning of the realization of the XFEL project in Hamburg. The XFEL partner countries have issued statements on their intended contributions to funding the XFEL. Furthermore, the responsible Ministries have declared the following:
We consider that the XFEL is an important element for further shaping the European Research Area which will offer scientists from Europe and the whole world outstanding opportunities for conducting research on matter.
We declare with great satisfaction that the technical and administrative preparations for the construction of the XFEL have been completed successfully.
We are convinced that it is appropriate to begin the construction of the XFEL as quickly as possible in view of the international competition situation.
We have agreed to begin the first construction phase of the XFEL with construction costs of 850 million euro.
We declare our intention to realize the construction of the XFEL as described in the Technical Design Report.
We welcome the support of the European Commission, which will contribute to the construction of new research infrastructures through the 7th Framework Programme.
We declare our intention to jointly secure the funding for the operation of the XFEL.
We assume that all the necessary steps for signing the Convention and founding the XFEL GmbH (Limited Liability Company) will be taken without delay.