The New Highlight in Switzerland's Research Infrastructures
Welcome to the Website of the SwissFEL, Switzerland's X-ray free-electron laser at the Paul Scherrer Institute.
The SwissFEL is based on a novel technology holding exceptional promises for diverse areas of scientific research. Serving our society's modern trends "smaller, faster, more complex", SwissFEL will provide unprecedented insights into structures as small as an atom and into phenomena as fast as the vibrations of molecular bonds. It will also reveal the secrets behind the inner complexity of technologically relevant materials and biochemical structure and interaction.
A major milestone in the commissioning of SwissFEL has been reached: the first pump-probe experiments on proteins have been successfully carried out. Crystals of several retinal-binding proteins were delivered in a viscous jet system and a femtosecond laser was used to start the isomerization reaction. Microsecond to sub-picosecond snapshots were then collected, catching the retinal proteins shortly after isomerization of the chromophore.
A team with three researchers from the ETH Domain has been awarded a prestigious EU grant. Today, they received the contract signed by the EU confirming the extraordinary 14 million euros funding. With it, they will investigate quantum effects which could become the backbone of future electronics.
The first SwissFEL call for proposals took place, deadline for submission was the 15th of September. In this first call for proposals SwissFEL received overwhelming interest from the user community. A total of 47 proposals were submitted for the SwissFEL Alvra experimental station and 26 for the Bernina experimental station. The Proposal Review committee PRC took place on 18-19 October 2018. Due to the early operation phase of the facility only a reduced number of user shifts is available, resulting in SwissFEL being overbooked by a factor of 10 and an extremely strong competition for beamtime.
The summer shutdown was used to install more missing hardware. With the new components the Bernina instrument will be already very close to the full design capabilities when the exciting time of user experiments will begin in 2019.
In March 2018, the nine-week MOOC “Introduction to synchrotrons and x-ray free-electron lasers” (abbreviated to “SYNCHROTRONx”) came online via the edX provider of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), created by Phil Willmott of the Swiss Light Source, Paul Scherrer Institute. “MOOC” is an acronym for “massive open online course”, a teaching platform started in the first decade of this century, which has become increasingly popular in the last five to six years. MOOCs have no limits to participation and are free. Some of the most popular MOOCs can attract many tens of thousands of participants. Even the most specialized subjects may have an initial enrollment of over a thousand, more than an order of magnitude larger than that typically found in traditional higher education. There were over 70 million MOOC enrollments covering nearly 10’000 subjects offered by the top five providers in 2017 alone!
X-ray Free Electron Lasers (XFELs) combine the properties of synchrotron radiation (short wavelengths) and laser radiation (high lateral coherence, ultrashort pulse durations). These outstanding machines allow to study ultra-fast phenomena at an atomic level with unprecedented temporal resolution for answering the most intriguing open questions in biology, chemistry and physics.