Scientific Highlights

17 December 2018


First femtosecond protein pump-probe measurements at SwissFEL

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.

6 December 2018

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EU grants 14 million to Swiss Researchers

Media Releases Materials Research Matter and Material Research Using Neutrons Large Research Facilities

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.

18 October 2018

SwissFEL's First Call for Proposals

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.

18 September 2018


Bernina status first summer shutdown

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.

12. August 2018

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First serial femtosecond crystallography (SFX) pilot user experiment at SwissFEL

On the 7th to 12th of August 2018, a collaborative group of scientists from the Paul Scherrer Institute and members of the LeadXpro and Heptares pharmaceutical companies led by Karol Nass (PSI macromolecular crystallography MX-SLS group) performed the first serial femtosecond crystallography (SFX) pilot user experiment at the Swiss X-ray free electron laser SwissFEL. Serial femtosecond crystallography is an emerging technique for structure determination of radiation sensitive micro-crystals that takes advantage of the ultra-short pulse durations from an XFEL and allows access to reaction time scales previously not reachable by conventional time-resolved crystallography read more.

11 July 2018

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On the path to new high-performance transistors

Media Releases Research Using Synchrotron Light Large Research Facilities Materials Research Matter and Material

The electronics industry expects a novel high-performance transistor made of gallium nitride to offer considerable advantages over present-day high-frequency transistors. Yet many fundamental properties of the material remain unknown. Now, for the first time, researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI have observed electrons while they were flowing in this promising transistor. For that they used one of the world's best sources of soft X-rays at PSI's Swiss Light Source SLS.

20 June 2018

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MOOCs – a paradigm shift in education

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!

6 April 2018


A first glance at the SwissFEL x-rays wave-front

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.

17 December 2017

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First Pilot Experiment at SwissFEL-Alvra: UV photo-induced charge transfer in OLED system

On the 17th of December 2017 SwissFEL saw its first pilot experiment in the Alvra experimental station of the SwissFEL ARAMIS beamline.

7 December 2017

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First experiment at SwissFEL carried out successfully

Media Releases Large Research Facilities SwissFEL

The years of careful planning and construction have paid off: At the newest large-scale research facility of the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI – the X-ray free-electron laser SwissFEL – the first experiment has been carried out successfully. With that, two goals have been achieved: First, a new scientific result is already expected. Second, the interaction of the many individual components of the highly complex facility is being optimised.

30 November 2017

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First time resolved Pilot Experiment by SwissFEL: Semiconductor to metal transition in Ti3O5 nanocrystals

On the 30th of November 2017 SwissFEL saw its first time resolved pilot experiment in the Bernina experimental station of the SwissFEL ARAMIS beamline. A team of scientists from the University of Rennes, ESRF and PSI, led by Marco Cammarata (Univ. Rennes) and Henrik Lemke (PSI), successfully started the experimental phase at SwissFEL.

13 November 2017


How ‘super-microscopes’ are changing the face of European science

13 November 2017 – Brussels – 16 organisations representing 19 light sources facilities across Europe gathered to launch the LEAPS initiative and signed an agreement to strengthen their collaboration, in the presence of Robert-Jan Smits, Director General for Research and Innovation (RTD) at the European Commission, and Giorgio Rossi, Chair of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI).

20 October 2017

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First light in SwissFEL Experimental Station Bernina

Friday, October 20th, 2017, we brought the first light (wavelength 1.2 nm) into the experimental hutch of Bernina. The beam passed the Alvra endstation, went through the diagnostic devices and hit the diagnostic screen in front of the refocussing KB-system of Bernina. The upper picture shows the pink beam on the last diagnostic screen of the beamline. The lower left at the entrance of Bernina-hutch, 133 m downstream of the undulator. The lower right picture shows the beam centered in the alignment iris in front of the KB-system.

17 September 2017


ATHOS Conceptual Design Report (CDR)

The ATHOS Conceptual Design Report has recently been completed and describes the ATHOS project in detail. The CDR starts with a summary of the characteristics of the ATHOS undulator line. Especially the design parameters of the different ATHOS operation modes are explained and illustrated by simulation results. The core part of the report is a description of all key components, i.e. from the electron bunch extraction kicker down to the ATHOS experimental stations.

31 August 2017


First beam in optics hutch

On August 31st, 2017, SwissFEL reached the next milestone by sending the first X-rays into the Optics Hutch. The Aramis undulators of SwissFEL produced SASE-radiation with 1.2 nm wavelength. The beam entered the Aramis-beamline along the pink beam path of Bernina via two vertical offset mirrors and was detected on the diagnostic photon screen at the end of the Optics Hutch. A stable and well shaped beam with a diameter of 1.5 mm was observed. With the bendable offset mirrors we were able to manipulate the profile to enlarge and reduce the vertical its size from 660 µm (rms) down to 260 µm (rms) without introducing distortions. The gas based intensity and position monitor in the frontend could be calibrated and determined a pulse energy of approximately 5 µJ. We are now looking forward to the next commissioning time in October to commission the monochromatic beam path of Bernina and the second branchline Alvra.

7 July 2017


Scientists get first direct look at how electrons ‘dance’ with vibrating atoms

Scientists at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University - one of the leading authors, Simon Gerber, has in the meantime relocated to PSI - have made the first direct measurements, and by far the most precise ones, of how electrons move in sync with atomic vibrations rippling through an quantum material, in the present study an unconventional superconductor, as if they were “dancing" to the same beat.

24 May 2017

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Observing switching of Molecules using Free Electron Lasers

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16 May 2017

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First lasing at a wavelength of 4.1 nm

The electron beam energy of SwissFEL was recently increased to above 900 MeV by successfully bringing two new accelerating modules into operation. This allowed SwissFEL to produce laser radiation for the first time in the soft x-ray regime with a photon wavelength of 4.1 nm. During the next months, the electron beam energy will be progressively further increased with the goal of enabling first user experiments at a wavelength of around 0.5 nm towards the end of this year.

2 December 2016

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Extreme optical and electronic nonlinearities in GaP induced by an ultrastrong Terahertz field

Researchers from the SwissFEL laser group have succeeded in using intense Terahertz radiation to dramatically change the optical properties of a semiconductor on a sub-cycle timescale. In their experiment the material Gallium Phosphide (GaP) was illuminated by an extremely strong THz electric field with up to 50 MV/cm in strength.

2 December 2016

SwissFEL First Lasing

On Friday December 2nd at 1am SwissFEL observed for the first time FEL lasing in the undulator line. The lasing was achieved with a commission beam of low intensity, repetition rate and energy, i.e. 100pC/bunch, 1Hz and 377MeV. The 12 undulators were set to a K value of 1.2. The resulting wavelength computed from beam energy and undulator K value is 24nm. The FEL signal was observed with a Si-diode detector. The spontaneous radiation signal with uncompressed electron beam increased by a large factor when the beam was compressed from 10ps to about 1ps at constant charge and electron beam energy. By opening the undulator gaps a first FEL gain curve was measured.

1 November 2016

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EUCALL finishes first year, bearing new technologies

The European Cluster of Advanced Laser Light sources (EUCALL), a European Union-funded project that aims to foster links between accelerator- and laser-driven X-ray facilities, has completed the first year of its three year project period. The project successfully met all twenty of its milestones for the year, producing a new open-source tool for experiment simulations and developing specifications for several pieces of new scientific equipment.

21 October 2016

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First protein structure solved using the JUNGFRAU detector

JUNGFRAU is a charge-integrating, two-dimensional pixel detector developed at the Paul Scherrer Institut for use at free-electron lasers, in particular SwissFEL, and synchrotron light sources. On the 10th October, the first protein crystallography experiment using the JUNGFRAU detector, was performed at the beamline X06SA (PXI) of the Swiss Light Source by the members of the Protein Crystallography and Detectors groups at PSI.

10 October 2016

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Completion of the vacuum pipes assembly from injector to front end

On Monday October the 10th the last piece of the vacuum tube was mounted and pumped down. The about 500 m long vacuum chamber from the end of the injector to the photonics front end is now under vacuum. The only missing junction at z=119m between the already operated injector and the rest of SwissFEL will be mounted shortly before the delivery of the operation permit.

6 October 2016

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Last undulator placed in SwissFEL tunnel

On the 6th of October the last undulator for the ARAMIS beamline was placed into the SwissFEL tunnel. Thanks to the efficiency and motivation of the different groups involved with undulator preparation, all 12 undulators were assembled, measured and installed in the tunnel between the 2nd of February 2016 and the 6th of October 2016.

13 September 2016

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Completion of SwissFEL LINAC

On September 13th, the last two modules of the linear accelerator were installed in the SwissFEL tunnel. This means that 26 accelerating modules are installed now. One accelerating module consists of four accelerating structures. In total there are 104 accelerating structures, with a lenght of 2 m each.

9 September 2016

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SwissFEL First Free Electrons, First Beam at 144 MeV and First acceleration with SwissFEL C-band modules

For the first time electrons were accelerated with a SwissFEL C-band module (the first one of a series of 26 modules). The module operated with the nominal parameters that will be used in the last two linac sections. The RF pulse duration was 3 µs, at an RF power of 36 MW from the klystron. This pulse was compressed to 350 ns, yielding a peak power of approximately 215 MW. At these conditions, the energy gain was estimated to be 235 MeV, which is well within expectations.

24 August 2016

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First Free Electrons at SwissFEL

At SwissFEL the first free electrons were produced and accelerated to 7.9 MeV. The electrons were stopped directly after the gun in the gun-spectrometer. The bunch charge was 20-50pC, with a repition rate of 10Hz. First measurements showed that the generated electron beam was of high quality. This means that the first milestone for the SwissFEL beam commissioning was reached!

22 August 2016

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Catching proteins in the act

Media Releases Large Research Facilities SwissFEL Biology Human Health

Proteins are indispensable building blocks of life. They play a vital role in many biological processes. Researchers have now been able to show how the ultrafast processes by which proteins do their work can be studied with free-electron X-ray lasers such as SwissFEL at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI. Free-electron X-ray lasers generate extremely short and intense pulses of X-ray light. Currently there are just two such facilities in operation, worldwide. The results were published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

15 June 2016

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First light from the SwissFEL Experimental Laser

The SwissFEL Experimental Laser 1 has successfully been delivered and installed in a temporary laser lab by Coherent, from where it will be moved to SwissFEL by end of 2016. The pre-installation in the temporary laser lab allows to become acquainted with the system, to set up a full monitoring and diagnostics system and to debug potential problems in the next months.

6 June 2016

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Investigating DNA Radiation Damage Using X-Ray Absorption Spectroscopy

The key to achieving more effective radioprotection and radiotherapy is to understand the exact mechanism of the interaction between radiation and biomolecules, and in particular to obtain the precise structure of the different forms of damage and their relative ratios. Among all biomolecules exposed to radiation, DNA plays an important role because any damage to its molecular structure can affect the whole cell and may lead to chromosomal rearrangements resulting in genomic instability or cell death.

14 April 2016

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Tailoring Novel Superconductivity

The band insulator strontium titanate SrTiO3 (STO), widely used as a substrate for growing oxide films, is a highly fascinating material. Recently, novel physical properties have been observed at the interface between STO and the materials grown on it. For instance the appearance of superconductivity above the temperature of liquid nitrogen, observed in a single monolayer of FeSe (its critical temperature is higher than in any iron-based bulk material) grown on the STO surface, suggests a key-role of the STO substrate.

1 April 2016

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Hard X-ray Photon Single-Shot Spectrometer of SwissFEL successfully delivered and installed

Not a joke: on 1st of April 2016 the Photon Single-Shot Spectrometer (PSSS) got delivered fully assembled and installed already to the front end of SwissFEL. It will measure the photon spectral information in every single shot for the Aramis beamline not only for the users, but also as a direct feedback to the machine during formation of the lasing process.

16 March 2016

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Towards hybrid pixel detectors for energy-dispersive or soft X-ray photon science

JUNGFRAU (adJUstiNg Gain detector FoR the SwissFEL Aramis User station) is a two dimensional hybrid pixel detector for photon science applications at free electron lasers and synchrotron light sources. The JUNGFRAU 0.4 prototype presented here is specifically geared towards low-noise performance and hence soft X-ray detection. With an extremely low noise of less than 30 electrons it enters a field formally reserved for SSD’s and CMOS imagers allowing single photon resolution down to a photon energy of 500eV.

9 February 2016

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Installation progress of the SwissFEL Linac

The installation of the linear accelerator (Linac) progresses very well. This week, the last girder of the so-called “Linac 1” was installed in the SwissFEL tunnel. The entire C-band accelerator consists out of Linac 1, Linac 2, and Linac 3, and a total amount of 104 accelerating structures. Meanwhile, 38 accelerating structures are installed in the SwissFEL tunnel. The assembly work on the remaining Linac modules will take place until end of September of this year. By then it is planned to finish the installation of all Linac modules in the SwissFEL tunnel.

25 January 2016

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Transport of first "completed" Undulator into the SwissFEL Tunnel

On the 25th of January, the first "completed" undulator has been transported to its final position in the SwissFEL tunnel. The 1064 permanent magnets of this undulator where shimmed to the sub-micrometer level and the magnetic profile has been carefully measured for the full gap range. Twelve of such undulators will be installed until October 2016!

5 January 2016

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First ultraprecise mirror for SwissFEL arrived at PSI

Mirrors are key elements to distribute and shape the Xray beam generated by the undulators of the SwissFEL facility. They are essential tools to guide and focus the light according to the specific users requirements and should do this without noticeable effects on the beam quality. A quantitative measure is the quality of the beam wavefront. The wavefront must be conserved by the optical elements in the SwissFEL beamlines within a fraction of the wavelength which can be as short as one Angstrom in the case of Aramis. There are only few companies in the world, who are able to fabricated such ultraprecise mirrors.

5 November 2015

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New EU project: Guiding light for the world's brightest light sources

EUCALL will build bridges between major laser and X-ray research centres: For the past half-century, two special kinds of light have changed the landscape of research. Advanced visible-spectrum optical lasers have propelled studies into ultrafast processes, new materials, telecommunications, and many other fields, while intense X-rays produced at synchrotrons have helped image tiny structures and otherwise invisible parts of matter, enabling huge leaps in biochemistry, pharmacology, and materials science. New developments have enhanced the generation of X-rays at optical-laser and accelerator facilities, resulting in the creation of large international research centres. The European Union is now funding a 7 million-euro effort to bring these research centres together through the European Cluster of Advanced Laser Light Sources (EUCALL) project.

26. October 2015

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Put in perspective

Media Releases Large Research Facilities Matter and Material Materials Research SwissFEL

Researchers from the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI have succeeded in using commercially available camera technology to visualise terahertz light. In doing so, they are enabling a low-cost alternative to the procedure available to date, whilst simultaneously increasing the comparative image resolution by a factor of 25. The special properties of terahertz light make it potentially advantageous for many applications. At PSI, it will be used for the experiments on the X-ray free-electron laser SwissFEL.

26 October 2015

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New methods to generate short and high-power X-ray Free-Electron-Laser pulses

State-of-the-art X-ray Free-Electron-Laser (XFEL) facilities like SwissFEL are able to provide radiation pulses with pulse powers of a few tens of gigawatts and pulse durations of several tens of femtoseconds and shorter. There is, however, a strong demand in research fields such as bioimaging and nonlinear optics to obtain higher radiation powers and shorter pulses than in standard facilities. In this context, we have developed two new methods able to generate terawatt-attosecond XFEL pulses. Both proposals are based on superradiance, a regime with quadratic growth of the radiation power and a shortening of the spike while it slips into unspoiled (good-beam) regions of the bunch.

22 September 2015

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Laser arrival time measurement and correction for the SwissFEL lasers

To probe ultrafast processes at SwissFEL it is crucial that the pump laser, used at the end stations, arrives in time with the generated X-ray pulses. For fs resolution pump probe experiments a path-length change of few-hundred nanometers already affects the measurement quality. The length of SwissFEL and the total propagation path of the pump laser light to the experiment is in the scale of several hundred meters, which makes this task challenging.

24 August 2015

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Umbrella MoU Signed by 14 Parties

The Memorandum of Understanding of the Umbrella Collaboration was signed by 14 parties: ALBA, DESY, Diamond Light Source Ltd, Elettra, EMBL Heidelberg, ESRF, European XFEL, HZB, ILL, Instruct Academic Services Ltd, KIT, PSI, STFC and SOLEIL.

17. August 2015

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Terahertz laser light focused to the extreme

Matter and Material Materials Research

Researchers from the Paul Scherrer Institute have managed to focus the light pulse terahertz laser at the limit of what is permitted by the classical laws of physics. This opens up new possibilities for studying the properties of materials.

10 July 2015

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High-Precision Vertical Linear Translation for Offset Mirrors

The horizontal and vertical offset mirrors are key optical elements for the SwissFEL ARAMIS Beamline. The offset mirrors for example, are used to deflect and steer the x-ray beam into one of the end stations. As the sample position is about 60m from the mirror, very high demands are put on the mirror positioning system in order to deflect the x-ray beam on to the sample with a micro-meter precision. Therefore precise positioning of the mirrors is required, with specifications to move a load of up to 200kg by steps as small as 0.3µm. Not just the positioning must be precise, but also the stability for short term vibrations and long term drifts must be superior.

8 June 2015

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PSI-DESY Collaboration Delivers First Photonics Component for SwissFEL

The Photon Beam Intensity Gas (PBIG) monitor arrived at PSI at the end of May, and will be one of the first photonics components to be installed in the new SwissFEL facility.

The gas-based photon beam position and intensity monitor is a device originally developed by Dr. Kai Tiedtke and his team at the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY) for the non-destructive measurement of an X-ray FEL's beam position and flux. The accurate measurement of these variables is necessary due to the stochastic nature of the self-amplified spontaneous emission (SASE) process which can create jitters in the position and flux of the FEL beam on a shot-to-shot basis. The device has been developed and adapted to fit the SwissFEL parameters in a PSI-DESY collaboration over the course of two years.

19 May 2015

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Beam Stoppers for SwissFEL

On the 5th of May the two beam stoppers were installed in the SwissFEL tunnel. These two blocks are made out of copper, recycled lead, steel and concrete blocks and weight 60 tons each. These stoppers are placed in front of both Aramis and Athos undulator lines.

19 March 2015

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Table-top soft x-ray lasers based on high-order harmonic generation (HHG)

Table-top soft x-ray lasers based on high-order harmonic generation (HHG) deliver routinely linearly polarized light. Many advanced applications including magnetic imaging would profit from a HHG source delivering in addition circular polarized light. In one of our recent work we present now an approach which provides intense soft x-ray radiation of high ellipticity. This source has given us the opportunity to realize the first magnetic dichroism experiment on a nickel sample at 18 nm (67 eV) with a table-top HHG source.

13 March 2015

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Successful start of the series production of the C-band accelerating structures for SwissFEL

A total of 104 C-band accelerating structures will be needed for SwissFEL. Each of these structures is about 2 m long and consists out of 113 copper cells that are manufactured with micrometer precision using ultra-precision diamond machining, which results in mirror-like surfaces. The main components are the couplers at the input and the output of the structure, and the copper disks. For both, couplers and disks, the series production was successfully launched at the end of 2014. Since then the Dutch company VDL and TEL Mechatronics in Trübbach, Switzerland, delivered already many sets of couplers and accelerating disks, respectively.

17. February 2015


Prepared for the SwissFEL

SwissFEL Large Research Facilities

For many years, PSI researchers have been testing experimental methods that will provide insights into novel materials for electronic devices. Using a special trick to make the Swiss Light Source (SLS) at PSI generate light with similar properties to that of PSI’s x-ray laser SwissFEL, the researchers were able to demonstrate that the experiments planned for SwissFEL are possible and they are now building an experimental station at SwissFEL.

16 January 2015

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Terahertz wavefront control for extremely bright THz bullet

The brightness of a light source defines its applicability to nonlinear phenomena in science. The SwissFEL laser group has now overcome one of the two principal technological hurdles to produce bright pulses in the Terahertz range (0.1-5 THz).