Put into operation in 2017, the European XFEL research facility produces extremely intense and short x-ray laser flashes. It can be used to generate images showing the anatomical details of viruses, to determine the molecular composition of cells, to observe the nanocosmic world or to film physiochemical and biological reactions. This underground facility offers unique opportunities for advanced research. The expected discoveries can be used in applied physics, materials science, medicine, pharmacology and many other fields.
The research facility is operated by European XFEL GmbH, which includes Germany, Denmark, Spain, France, Hungary, Italy, Poland, the United Kingdom, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland. Construction began in Hamburg in 2009. The total cost for construction and commissioning amounts to EUR 1.25 billion (2005 prices). Annual operating costs are around EUR 120 million.
There are only three comparable light sources outside of Europe – the USA (LCLS), Japan (SACLA) and South Korea (PAL-XFEL) – and another one in Switzerland (SwissFEL at the PSI); the European XFEL is currently being used for pilot experiments and will become fully operational from 2019. European XFEL raises the standard in terms of technological innovation and significantly outperforms all other installations.
Switzerland contributed to construction of the European XFEL facility from the very beginning and remains active in the operational phase, contributing nearly CHF 2 million per year in funding (e.g. roughly 1.5% of the total operating budget).
This participation complements expenditure in other national (Swiss Light Source and SwissFEL at PSI) and international (European Synchrotron Radiation Facility) light sources. This expenditure ensures that Swiss researchers have the best possible access to these advanced infrastructures.
The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) is responsible for Swiss participation in European XFEL.