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The European XFEL’s particle accelerator starts functioning

The European XFEL is the world’s longest superconducting linear particle accelerator. Its development and launch was possible thanks to a large international consortium in which the UPM is involved.

The scientific experiments in the new European XFEL’s particle accelerator are expected to start by next fall. Recently, this unique scientific equipment has reached the last major milestone before its full implementation: to generate the first X-ray laser light.

Thus, the accelerated electrons have passed through the 2.1 km long tunnel giving as a result an X-ray laser light with repetition rate of one pulse per second. This frequency will later increase up to 27 000 per second, the second highest frequency achieved in this types of accelerators so far, when the accelerator is officially working in September. This achievement will allow researchers to obtain images of structures and processes that occur at atomic level and deepen in the knowledge of the nanoworld.

Thanks to an international consortium of 17 partners from 8 European countries, the commissioning of the XFEL particle accelerator is about to start in the metropolitan region of Hamburg.
It is an electron accelerator that, guided by superconducting magnets, generates X-ray flashes. This light of great accuracy and able to concentrate, filter and reflect is the one that will allow researchers to study in detail the matter structure.

Researchers from Center for Industrial Electronics at Universidad Politécnica de Madrid have designed the 240 power supplies needed for providing energy to the superconductor magnets. Thanks to their contribution, researchers will be able to accurately control the magnetic field that guides the electrons, which is essential for the right operation of the whole installation.

According to Óscar García, the leader of the UPM team in the XFEL consortium, “A superconducting magnet is a complex load for a power supply since it firstly needs to be magnetized, and later, once it is in a superconducting mode, the power must keep operating with accuracy and control. The control strategy is essential and based on a combination of the frequency variation and the work cycle”.  

The accelerator of particles will open areas of research inaccessible so far. Among others, researchers will be able to trace atomic details of viruses, deciphering the molecular composition of cells or taking three-dimensional images of the nanometric world and chemical reactions.

About CEI

The Center for Industrial Electronics (CEI) is a research centre from Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. Its activity is focused on the design of both analogical and digital electronic systems applied to different areas. The research lines are related to power electronics, power quality and embedded systems.

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