Status of SLS and SwissFEL

We would like to update you on the status of user operation at our photon facilities:

COVID-19 call continues and is still open in 2021:
The PRIORITY COVID-19 rapid access call for proposals continues. Research is a long-term endeavor and COVID-19 research must continue. Why are new mutations much more infectious? What causes aftereffects months after the SARS-CoV-2 infection of a patient? If your research is directly COVID-19 relevant and you require access to SLS or SwissFEL to proceed, please do not hesitate to apply for rapid-access beamtime via the DUO portal. For all other research requiring access to the SLS or the ARAMIS beamlines ALVRA and BERNINA of SwissFEL: The standard call cycle continues with deadline on March 15th for SLS non-PX and SwissFEL and April 15th for SLS PX proposals.

SLS back to 24/7 with external users on site:
Since mid March 2020, the SLS has been in 24/5 operation without external users on site. Experiments have been performed using remote access or mail-in of samples that have been measured by SLS staff. Everything else had to be postponed to the 2nd semester of this year. This reduced the available beamtime and increased the over subscription for the calls for proposals in spring. For the calls in autumn, we hope to be back to normal over subscription values, thereby providing many of you with the opportunity to realize your excellent research projects. Following the current, brief shutdown, the SLS returned to normal 24/7 user operation with external users on site for non-MX beamlines from June 5th 2020 onwards. For the MX beamlines, user operation will continue with 100% remote access. The guest-house is open for external users as well. Please see below for travel and safety considerations.

We are dedicated to education:
For example, minimizing team sizes may lead to MSc or PhD students not being trained to the standard of the pre-pandemic past where they were frequently physically present for beamtimes on their own and related projects. There are no easy solutions and we kindly ask you to react here consciously by developing alternatives -- reducing the risk of a 'lost generation', i.e. young people who lost more than a year in the phase of their education that is often the most critical for their futures. As stopgaps, students can be trained more intensively in X-ray and optical labs at your university, and they can participate via remote access. Also, after more intense in-house efforts and remote participation, you might have the confidence to send them to PSI, with more experienced collaborators and other staff available via teleconference. Whatever you do strongly depends on the individual case. Don't hesitate to discuss options with your team and your local contact at PSI.

Travel and safety considerations for your beamtime:
We remind you of the safety measures in place, like preference for remote access, minimizing team sizes on site, obligatory face masks, providing information for contact tracing etc. For the SLS, we have a safety concept in place that builds on the established principles of distance keeping and hand washing. We are confident that even complex experiments can be realized with some additional effort for planning the beamtime campaign. For SwissFEL with typically larger teams on site, considerable adaptions of the thus far typical working style are required and feasible as well. More information.

Remote access:
Please consider using remote access for your experiments, or local-remote mixed teams. It's a bit like video conferences: Until recently, not many used them and it turned out now that they can work well, if one knows each other and is well prepared. We had a number of successful remote and local remote experiments at beamlines with thus far exclusively on site access and even for in-situ and in operando the online data analysis part can be done via remote access, thus easing keeping 2m distance at the beamlines. Please have a look at the Remote Operation Instructions Manual of the SLS MX beam lines. 

Current travel information of the Federal Office of Public Health:
The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health maintains a website with actual information about the travel restrictions and related regulations to and within Switzerland.

Green Light for the SLS 2.0 upgrade:
The Swiss parliament approved the Swiss Dispatch on Promotion of Education, Research and Innovation (ERI) for 2021 to 2024 -- which includes funding for the planned upgrade of the SLS. The start of the dark period is scheduled to be October 1st 2023. The upgrade will lead to a photon source of much lower emittance and significantly increased brightness, thus providing a sound basis for keeping the SLS and its beamline state-of-the-art for the next two decades to come. We just uploaded the CDR to the SLS 2.0 website. 

ATHOS entering pilot operation:
The soft X-ray branch of SwissFEL, ATHOS, has two end stations, FURKA and MALOJA. The MALOJA end station saw first light and will enter pilot user operation in the second semester of this year. 

We have seen great team efforts for maintaining the user operation without you being physically on site and we congratulate you and the beamline teams on this collaborative success in times of social distancing.
We are looking forward to getting back to full performance of your research performed at our facilities.

Stefan Mueller, Frithjof Nolting and Oliver Bunk on behalf of the SLS and SwissFEL teams