Synchrotrons meant indeed a significant leap forward for research on the atomic structure of materials. But they have their limitations, too. Ultrafast processes crucial to many disciplines from biochemistry to materials science lie beyond their reach because light pulses produced at synchrotrons are not short enough. Due to their insufficient brightness, synchrotrons are also limited when it comes to the elucidation of the atomic structure of ultrasmall samples like nanostructures or some proteins.That is why scientists want to take the next step in light source technology.

Challenges like capturing the single steps of a chemical reaction by seeing how atoms move and bonds are broken up, while new ones are forged calls for a more powerful and faster new generation of X-ray sources. This new generation is represented by so-called X-ray Free Electron Lasers (FEL), the 4th generation of X-ray light sources. X-FELs feature a brilliance, 1 billion higher than that of the most advanced synchrotrons and they can produce ultrashort pulses of coherent and polarized light.

development of X-FELS
X-FELS pulses are:
  • extremely bright (109 times brighter than synchrotron X-rays)
  • extremely short (femtoseconds)
  • coherent
Thanks to these features listed above, X-FELs will be able to reveal the structure of membrane proteins which are the key to more rational drugs against diabetes and heart disease.
Ultrafast processes of interest in chemistry will become accessible to the ability of FELs to produce very short pulses of X-rays. In addition, magnetic materials for new information storage technologies could be explored with the polarized beams of FEL light. Many other scientific and technological benefits are imaginable in other areas and the full potential of X-FELs will only be unveiled when scientists start using them. It is already clear at this point in time that they will open new avenues of research while complementing already existing techniques such as those applied at synchrotrons, neutron or muon imaging facilities.
features of X-FELS

Experiments at Large Scale Facilities are performed upon research proposal acceptance. Deadlines for proposal submission are normally 2-3 times per year, depending on the Facilities. Proposals are peer reviewed by expert panels, graded and accepted for beamtime allowance only if they meet cut-off criteria. Before writing a proposal, you must clearly identify the instrument(s) and the instrument requirements for your needs. Contact the instrument responsibles and discuss your experiment feasibility and all related technical issues.

Writing a proposal always specify:
  • Proposal Summary
  • Aims of the experiments and background (scientific background)
  • Experimental Methods (measurement strategy)
  • Beamlines and Beamtime requested
  • Results Expected
  • References