The world’s most powerful X-ray laser has been unveiled at a site in Germany. The European X-ray Free-Electron Laser (European XFEL), located in the metropolitan Hamburg area, an international (X-ray laser) research facility funded by 12 countries across Europe. Housed primarily in a series of tunnels and subterranean halls between 6 and 38 meters underground, the facility will allow scientists to attempt to recreate the conditions from deep inside the stars and planets, produce film-like sequences of chemical reactions, and analyse the structures of molecules, viruses, and cells.
European XFEL is one of five major X-ray lasers worldwide. Facilities in the US and Japan have already produced significant developments in structural biology and materials science. The European XFEL beam is more powerful with a far higher pulse rate than any comparable facility, producing 27,000 laser pulses per second.
The European XFEL acts as a high-speed camera that can capture images of atoms in a few millions of a billionth of a second. A lot of high energy, extremely short X-ray pluses means the device can be used to take detailed images of cells or molecules like proteins, resolving them at the atomic level.
Teams of scientists from around the world are keen to use this facility to collect data at a far faster rate than ever before and with fewer missed in-between shots. The results can help researchers develop new drugs based on the best possible knowledge of cells and their functions, among many other applications across disciplines from chemistry to materials science.
The group responsible for European XFEL’s SPB/SFX instrument, which is specially built to analyse the structures of tiny biological objects and other minuscule samples, came to ATC as they couldn’t locate an off-the-shelf chiller solution in the marketplace. Working alongside Mitchell Howard, ATC’s Technical Manager, to provide a bespoke solution, they engineered a positive specification by adapting the signals on the K3 chiller.
The European XFEL water cooled chiller copes with deionised water in a 3-phase unit with manual restart and a very high flow pump. The non-standard water cooled K12 chiller we also supplied is a 3-phase unit with an enlarged 13-litre tank, data output, and communications protocol.
Both the ATC supplied K3 and K12 are DI compatible and have DI compatible water circuits as, unusually, both sides of the water are deionised, not just the application side. Having deionised house water is a must for the SPB/SFX experiments.
ATC are experienced in working with national research facilities and take a collaborative approach, working with customers to understand their needs and provide the best chiller solution for their applications.
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Image (c) European XFEL