New Spectrometer Studies Electrons in Detail


The Department of Physics and Astronomy at Uppsala University has delivered a new type of imaging soft X-ray spectrometer to the X-ray research facility European X-Ray Free-Electron Laser Facility (euXFEL) in Hamburg.

The new spectrometer provides completely new opportunities to study the ultrafast movements of electrons and atoms. This means that the researchers can see fine details in how the X-rays interact with the sample’s electrons by analysing with great precision the light which is emitted from a sample when it is hit with the short intensive X-ray pulses that the facility in Hamburg generates. The researchers can thereby map fundamental mechanisms in small molecules and depict complex chemical reactions as they take place in larger molecules.

“This provides a deeper understanding, which in the long run will lead to important applications in many different fields,” says Johan Söderström, Senior Lecturer at Uppsala University.

Soft X-ray spectrometer European X-Ray Free-Electron Laser Facility in Hamburg
Some of the researchers that participated at the first measurements with the new soft X-ray spectrometer. Photo: Frank Poppe, European XFEL.

International interest in the instrument has been great and when measurements were made during the first beam time the first week in November 2022, around fifty researchers from the whole world participated. The soft X-ray spectrometer is a so called Swedish in-kind contribution to the European XFEL in Hamburg, which means that it is part of Sweden’s support to the European facility.

“About ten years ago, we received financial support from the Swedish Research Council and the mission to develop this instrument, so it feels fantastic that it now is in place and provides unique results,” says Jan-Erik Rubensson, Professor of Physics at Uppsala University.

The idea for the optical principle used in the soft X-ray spectrometer comes from Joseph Nordgren. Marcus Agåker has lead the construction project, Carl-Johan Englund has been responsible for the construction and the manufacture has been made in the Ångström Workshop at the Ångström laboratory in Uppsala. The collaboration with the group in Hamburg responsible for the measuring station where the spectrometer now is installed, is very fruitful, especially with Michael Meyer and Thomas Baumann.

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European X-Ray Free-Electron Laser Facility

Camilla Thulin
English translation: Johan Wall

Last modified: 2023-08-04