European XFEL

European X-Ray Free-Electron Laser Facility
General Info

European XFEL GmbH

Schenefeld, Germany

legal status



physical, remote

The European X-Ray Free-Electron Laser Facility GmbH (European XFEL) is a world-leading facility for the production of high repetition rate ultrashort X-ray flashes with a brilliance that is a billion times higher than that of the best conventional synchrotron X-ray radiation sources. This unparalleled brilliance has unlocked previously inaccessible realms of research. Harnessing these X-ray flashes, scientists dive into the atomic intricacies of viruses, unravel the molecular compositions of cells, capture three-dimensional views of the nanoworld, record chemical reactions in action, or explore phenomena occurring deep within planets. Established as a non-profit GmbH with limited liability under German law, the European XFEL boasts 12 countries as international shareholders. Since September 2017, European XFEL is operated in Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein. The European XFEL facility harnesses the advanced cold linear accelerator (LINAC) technology, enabling the generation of an impressive rate of up to 27 000 pulses per second. Within its ~2 km LINAC, electron bunches are accelerated to remarkable energies, reaching up to 17.5 GeV, before traversing through undulators, some spanning up to 200 m in length. Within these undulators, bursts of coherent X-rays are generated via the self-amplified spontaneous emission (SASE) process. Currently, the facility houses three undulator radiators with corresponding photon beamlines, and a total of seven instruments. The seven operational scientific instruments each facilitate ground-breaking research endeavours: Femtosecond X-ray Experiments (FXE Instrument) for time-resolved investigations of the dynamics of solids, liquids, gases; High Energy Density science (HED Instrument) for investigations of matter under extreme conditions, e.g. probing dense plasmas; Materials Imaging & Dynamics (MID Instrument) for structure determination of nanodevices and dynamics at the nanoscale; Spectroscopy and Coherent Scattering (SCS Instrument) for investigations of electronic structure dynamics of strongly correlated materials, liquids, and nano-systems using soft X-rays; Ultrafast coherent diffraction imaging of single particles, clusters, and biomolecules (SPB/SFX Instrument) for structure determination (atomic clusters, biomolecules, virus particles, cells) and serial femtosecond crystallography; Small Quantum Systems (SQS Instrument) for the investigation of atoms, ions, molecules, and clusters in intense fields and non-linear phenomena; and the Soft X-ray Port (SXP Instrument) for investigating the electronic and atomic properties of condensed matter systems at surfaces and interfaces using time-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy.
Total Investment 1540 M€ Design Preparation Implementation 1540 M€ Operation 146 M€/year Project Landmark 2006 2008 2010 2012 2014 2016 2018 2020 2022 2024 2026 2028 2030 2032 2034 2036 2038 RM06 RM08 RM10 RM16 RM18 RM21 LA24
Roadmap Entry
as project: 2006
as landmark: 2016
Total investment
1540 M€
Design Phase
Preparation Phase
Implementation Phase
1540 M€
Operation start
146 M€/year
In close collaboration with the Helmholtz Institute DESY, the European XFEL is propelling Europe to the forefront of accelerator-based X-ray sources. The facility extends the boundaries of condensed matter physics, materials science, chemistry, structural biology, and pharmacology. Pioneering advancements in detector and accelerator technologies fosters innovation and knowledge exchange with industry. The European XFEL actively engages in technology development, collaborating with partners in its shareholder countries, particularly in the production of highly specialized equipment. Foreseen breakthroughs in fundamental research—particularly in materials science, chemistry, catalysis, and macromolecular structures—are expected to catalyse sustainable innovation. Moreover, European XFEL serves as a platform for educating the next generation of scientists, empowering them to tackle nanoscale material challenges within a multinational, collaborative environment. By fostering an open atmosphere, it reinforces and enhances the European knowledge landscape, while encouraging international mobility. Consortia comprising European universities and research institutions have been established to develop instrumentation for the facility, fostering coordinated efforts in research areas spanning health, energy, and the environment. The facility’s social impact includes attracting skilled professionals to the regional and European science community. With around 500 employees directly at European XFEL and another 250 supporting accelerator operations at DESY, primarily located in Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein, the facility contributes to the regional economy.
The European XFEL is a premier research facility offering unfettered access to top-priority experiments worldwide through biannual public calls for proposals across its seven cutting-edge instruments. In addition to these general calls, specialized thematic invitations, such as those for molecular water science or techniques like Sample and Protein Crystal Screening, augment the spectrum of research opportunities. Given the intricacies of user experiments, primary access to the facility is granted physically, although remote participation is feasible. Access hinges on scientific merit, meticulously assessed by peer-review via "Proposals Review Panels." Once granted access, users benefit from comprehensive support services. Firstly, experiment preparation support encompasses scientific guidance, including technical feasibility checks and assistance from instrument scientists, as well as administrative aid, such as travel funding and arrangements for up to six users per experiment from shareholder countries. The user office provides guidance, and accommodation is facilitated at the European XFEL Guest House. Furthermore, assistance is extended for the German entry process, insurance, customs, and export control. Secondly, experiments are supported via assistance that spans sample preparation, utilization of user laboratories, and on-site support during beamtime, including the setup of experiments and utilization of specialized equipment. Thirdly, users receive assistance from the Data Analysis group and IT specialists for data analysis, processing, and transfer, as well as support in data reduction, retention, storage, and the formulation of data management plans. Finally, facilities for engaging with the European XFEL include user meetings, support for XFEL hubs in shareholder countries, participation in science schools, and aid in identifying industrial partners.
European XFEL
S S H D I G I T E N E E N V H & F
As a member of EIROforum the European XFEL cooperates closely with the pan-European ESFRI-projects at CERN, ESRF, ILL, EMBL, ESO, EUROfusion, and ESA to support European science in reaching its full potential. As an example, all partners within EIROforum collaborate on outreach endeavors aimed at promoting engaging science education. These efforts aim to inspire young minds to dive into scientific topics, showcasing the rewarding pathways within the realm of science as potential career pursuits ( Being a part of LEAPS, the League of European Accelerator-based Photon Sources, the European XFEL engages in close collaboration with both national and European synchrotron and FEL facilities. This collaborative effort is primarily geared towards safeguarding and enhancing the quality and influence of fundamental, applied, and industrial research conducted across various facilities, ultimately serving the broader interests of European science and society. ( Moreover, the European XFEL has played a pivotal role as one of the founding entities of FELs of Europe (, a consortium encompassing all free electron laser (FEL) facilities across Europe. On a global scale European XFEL interacts on an informal level with all other world leading X-Ray Free-Electron Lasers (LCLS/SLAC, US; SACLA/RIKEN, Japan; PAL-XFEL, South Korea; SHINE; China).