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Neil Calder, SLAC: (650) 926-8707,

German and U.S. laboratories to collaborate on X-ray free-electron lasers

The Deutsches-Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY), Germany's leading particle physics and synchrotron radiation laboratory, and the U.S. Department of Energy's Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) signed a laboratory-to-laboratory Memorandum of Understanding on Nov. 1 to establish a unique international collaboration for the development of X-ray free-electron lasers. The collaboration will spur a giant leap forward for synchrotron radiation research. Both facilities will generate X-ray pulses 10 billion times brighter and a thousandfold shorter in duration than existing sources. Scientists can use these ultra-brilliant beams to explore previously inaccessible dynamics in chemistry, biology and materials science, as well as in nanoscale phenomena and atomic and plasma physics.

"We are all excited by the colossal discovery potential of X-ray free-electron lasers," said SLAC Director Jonathan Dorfan. "International collaboration is the most efficient, responsible and cost-effective way of building world-class science facilities. There is already dynamic collaboration between SLAC, DESY and the KEK laboratory in Japan on research and development for a future high-energy physics linear collider. Today's agreement establishes stronger bonds between international centers of excellence."

Albrecht Wagner, chairman of the DESY board of directors, said he is "delighted by this collaboration. Both projects will be enriched and accelerated by the first-class personnel and accumulated expertise at both laboratories."

DESY and SLAC are world-leading laboratories in the development and operation of electron accelerators for research in high-energy physics and in the many fields of science that make use of synchrotron radiation. Both institutions are committed to exploring the extraordinary scientific capabilities that X-ray free-electron lasers will offer and are advanced in the planning for two facilities -- the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) at SLAC and the TESLA X-ray Free-Electron Laser (TESLA-XFEL) at DESY. The LCLS project engineering and design has been authorized by the Department of Energy, and the facility is scheduled to become operational in 2008. The TESLA-XFEL is expected to be operational in 2011.

The agreement sets the framework for practical collaboration between DESY and SLAC on the many technical challenges to be faced in fully exploiting the capabilities of X-ray free-electron lasers. This collaboration will be based on exchange of personnel and equipment and open interchange of research results, know-how and data.

"These machines can be used to observe atoms in the process of forming or breaking bonds in molecules -- in effect, freeze-frame photography of molecular formation," said John Galayda, head of the SLAC X-ray free-electron laser project.

Both DESY and SLAC already are working on short-wavelength linear-accelerator-driven light sources that provide a preview of the extraordinary capabilities of LCLS and TESLA-XFEL. The TESLA Test Facility (TTF) at DESY is the shortest wavelength free-electron laser in the world, and the Sub-Picosecond Pulse Source (SPPS) being developed at SLAC will match its performance. The TTF and SPPS offer a combination of peak brightness and short pulse duration far beyond any other sources in the world today. The agreement between DESY and SLAC gives a green light for immediate collaboration on research at TTF and SPPS. This initial work will provide valuable preliminary information and solutions to the technical challenges of the future LCLS and TESLA-XFEL.


By Neil Calder

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