An 850-million-euro ($1.2 billion) research center that will house the world's brightest X-ray light source was opened in Hamburg. The underground machine can deliver ultra-short X-ray flashes.
X-rays can uncover all sorts of things
Science ministers from Germany, France and Russia were on hand at the official opening of the XFEL, or X-ray Free-Electron Laser project, which will be built over the next six years in a tunnel system that's 3.4 kilometers (2 miles) long.
Thirteen other countries, including Italy, Great Britain, Denmark, Poland and China, are also involved in the research project. Germany will carry three-quarters of the costs, and the other states carry the rest.
"Commissioning of the first six of 10 possible experimental stations will begin in 2013," said German Research and Education Minister Annette Schavan, who also attended the opening.
Research Minister Schavan supported the project
Like a camera, the machine should be able to take flash photos of chemical reactions as they happen.
The XFEL will be built in Hamburg's DESY science park where existing machines in tunnels do particle-physics research. It may also be useful for industrial research on nano-materials that are measured in billionths of a meter (yard).
Tenders for construction of the underground tunnel system are to be invited next, said Andreas Schwarz, a DESY physicist. A pilot project was commissioned at DESY in 2005.
The tunnels will stretch under an inter-state border to the suburban town of Schenefeld in Schleswig-Holstein state.
"Door to breakthroughs"
French Research Minister Valerie Pecresse called the project "the door to central research breakthroughs," and called for the participants to work on unified European research.
"Research and science are the pillars of our economy," Pecresse said. "This is an excellent way to expand our cooperation."