European XFEL

The European XFEL is a new, powerful X-ray laser in northern Germany. It provides scientists from all over the world with ultrashort X-ray flashes— 27 000 times per second and with a brilliance that is a billion times higher than that of the best conventional X-ray radiation sources—that will open up completely new research opportunities for scientists and industrial users.

The European XFEL is a 3.4-kilometre-long facility located mainly in underground tunnels. It runs from the DESY research centre in the city of Hamburg into the neighbouring German federal state of Schleswig-Holstein. The construction and operation of the facility has been entrusted to an independent research organisation, the European X-Ray Free-Electron Laser Facility GmbH (European XFEL GmbH), a non-profit limited liability company under German law that has international shareholders. It was founded on 28 September 2009 and has a workforce of about 300 people. At present, 12 countries are participating in the European XFEL: Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

The European XFEL is being realised as a joint effort of many partners. To this end, the European XFEL GmbH cooperates closely with the DESY research centre and other organisations worldwide. To a great extent, the European XFEL facility was realised by means of in-kind contributions by shareholders and partners.

The European XFEL facility consists of a superconducting linear particle accelerator that boosts electrons to high energies. The electrons are then directed through long, special arrangements of magnets (undulators) in which they emit extremely short and intense X-ray flashes with laser properties. These X-ray flashes are then distributed to initially three beamlines with six experimental stations.

Using the European XFEL’s brilliant X-ray radiation, physicists, chemists, biologists, and other scientists from all over the world are able to map the atomic details of viruses, decipher the molecular composition of cells, take three-dimensional images of the nanoworld, film chemical reactions, study processes such as those occurring deep inside planets, and more. The new X-ray laser facility is opening up areas of research that were previously inaccessible and thus benefits a whole range of scientific fields—among them medicine, pharmacy, chemistry, physics, materials science, nanotechnology, energy technology, and electronics.

European XFEL has 4 operational experiment stations accepting users, and two more will be ready in the first half of 2019.

More information

Beam parameters


Max. Electron Energy [GeV]


Wavelengthrange [nm]

0.05 - 4.7



Peak brilliance



27 000