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SwissFEL is the new X-ray free-electron laser facility at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) in Switzerland. It was inaugurated in December 2016.[1] X-ray free-electron lasers generate intense, rapid pulses of X-ray light suitable for a variety of scientific research, including chemistry, material science, and studies of macromolecular structure.


The SwissFEL design aims to produce laser pulses covering the wavelength range 1 Å to 70 Å. Each pulse is just 1 to 60 femtoseconds in duration, allowing extremely fast reactions and processes to be investigated.

The facility is 740 meters long. It houses four main assemblies:

  • The injector, which provides a source of electrons
  • The linear accelerator, which accelerates the electrons to nearly the speed of light in dense packets[2]
  • An undulator, which causes the electrons to emit X-rays in intense, coherent packets
  • Two experimental halls, where the beam is focused onto the experimental sample and data is collected from an X-ray detector

The design is, with a total length of just under 740 meters, relatively compact and therefore affordable on the scale of a national laboratory. Construction is expected to cost 275 million Swiss francs, mostly provided by the Swiss federal government.[3]

Due to its location in the Würenlingen forest, special care was given to minimize the impact of SwissFEL on the local environment. Much of the completed facility will be covered by soil and gravel. The accelerator tunnel will include a buried section to allow wildlife to cross from one side of the facility to the other.


Construction began in April, 2013, in the Würenlingen forest in Switzerland, adjacent to the Paul Scherrer Institute.[4] The installation of the facility started in early 2015.[5] The first pilot experiments will start in 2017.[3]


  1. ^ Christian Speicher: Schweizer Röntgenlaser: Eine Visitenkarte für den Forschungsplatz In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung vom 5. Dezember 2016
  2. ^ "The SwissFEL facility: the linear accelerator". Paul Scherrer Institute. Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "Overview: SwissFEL – the new large-scale facility at the Paul Scherrer Institute". Paul Scherrer Institute. Retrieved 13 February 2017. 
  4. ^ "Beginning of construction in the Würenlingen forest". Paul Scherrer Institute. Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  5. ^ "SwissFEL ready for assembly". Paul Scherrer Institute. Retrieved 8 March 2016. 

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