The European X-ray Free Electron Laser (European X-FEL) which is being built in Hamburg, Germany, will be a world leading facility for the production of ultrashort X-ray flashes - 30 000 times per second and with a brilliance that is a billion times higher than that of the best conventional X-ray radiation sources. With its worldwide unique characteristics, the facility will open up completely new research opportunities for scientists and industrial users.

The European X-FEL will provide several light sources for X-ray flashes with different characteristics. Some of them will generate X-ray radiation with the properties of laser light. To produce X-ray flashes, bunches of electrons are first accelerated to high energies and then directed through special arrangements of magnets. In the process, the particles emit light that amplifies itself until an extremely short and intense X-ray flash is produced. Experiments with the X-ray flashes of the European X-FEL are similar in their basic setup: Depending on the experimental requirements, the X-ray flashes can be widened, focused, filtered or weakened using optical elements such as mirrors, gratings, slits or crystals. The samples are provided in the experiment station, where they interact with the X-ray flashes. The results of these interactions are measured using special detectors. The data is recorded and processed for analysis. The researchers can follow the progress of the experiments from a neighbouring control room.

It is anticipated that the availability of X-ray pulses with peak brilliance of up to nine orders of magnitude greater than existing 3rd generation light sources shall allow for the performance of experiments in a wide range of disciplines. These include for example, the follow-up of structural modifications at the atomic level on the sub-ps timescale during chemical reactions and phase transformations, the determination of macromolecular structures without the need for crystallization etc. These are areas of critical importance for the Greek scientific community, but optimum exploitation of the opportunities generated by X-FEL requires a wide range of expertise which is usually not available in individual research groups. Optimum preparation for the access and use of the European X-FEL facilities by Greek scientists can be achieved and properly coordinated only at the level of a network comprising the necessary complementary expertise. ΒΕ/ΟPT-XFEL is a network of eight academic and research organizations which has the aim to prepare the Greek scientific community for the X-FEL era. BE/OPT-XFEL includes leading-edge experts in disciplines that are relevant to X-FEL including structural biology, materials science, fast enzymatic reactions, synchrotron light sources, as well as in silico and in vitro chemistry and physics.

Why is ΒΕ/ΟPT-XFEL important?
Knowledge generation and, by implication, innovation, directly depend on the access and optimum use of state-of-the art large-scale research infrastructures, which include facilities such as the European X-FEL. By creating a basis for the performance of presently impossible and potentially revolutionary experiments through the X-FEL technology, the Greek scientific community will be put at the forefront of the advancement of research, and will help Greek and European industry to strengthen its base of knowledge and technological know how.