Project summary

Project title

Pioneering experiments with ultrafast X-ray techniques at the Extreme Light Infrastructure

Focus area/objective

Innovation, R&D, Entrepreneurship,Development of regional networks/clusters of SMEs, academia, and research institutions with a long-lasting impact

Project relevance and context

What is the main issue that your project would like to focus on? What is the current situation that you wish to change? What has already been done in the field?

Ultrafast research (studies on chemical/biological processes faster than nanoseconds) used for new, innovative solutions to green energy, solar power, new generation medicine, environmental problems, IT technologies etc. play an increasingly important role in current science. In particular, X-ray based diffraction and -spectroscopies became one of the most important methods in this field since the opening of the Xray free electron lasers in the early 2010’s, which provided first the necessary short X-ray pulses. Although such studies are crucial to basic knowledge, industrial or medical applications, the necessary techniques and infrastructure are rarely accessible. ELI is the first large scale facility in the Visegrad countries which can support such scientific activities and has the potential to become a leading facility in the world where such experiments can be performed. In order to take advantage of this new facility, we propose to employ ultrafast hard X-ray diffraction and -spectroscopy at ELI and accomplish the pioneering experiments. In 2017 we have established a solid cooperation between experienced V4 scientists and leading researchers at the ELI Beamlines in Prague with the help of a former Visegrad Grant. Although the ELI facility was in its very early building stage, this cooperation paved the way for a common operation which aims to establish ultrafast Xray methods in the V4 region.

How specifically does your project contribute to this change/improvement?

The goal of our cooperation is to perform the first scientific studies with the unprecedented ultrafast X-ray spectrometer, as well as to contribute to the establishment of a new X-ray diffractometer based on the extreme bright femtosecond laser beam provided by ELI Beamlines. These instruments are foreseen to give a major advantage in innovative research to a wide range of V4 physicists, chemists and biologists as it provides world class conditions for ultrafast X-ray studies as well as it is easily accessible from the V4 countries. Most of the necessary hardware is already purchased or being ordered by the ELI, the main task where our team will contribute with the help of the Visegrad Grant is the know-how of such instruments and experiments gained at international large scale facilities like X-ray free electron lasers in the USA, Japan and Germany, or synchrotrons and laser instruments in the USA, Europe and Asia. In cooperation with the ELI scientist, we plan to assemble and test all new equipment for the diffractometer, perform the very first experiments with both the spectrometer and the diffractometer on well described problems, and finally to try to investigate a few intriguing complex biological system.

Why is it necessary to address the issue on a regional level?

The EU funded ELI facility has a great potential to significantly increase the region’s scientific excellence. However, this potential has to be exploited by establishing steady research environments. Our proposed X-ray spectroscopy/diffractometry station can play such a role. Once it is fully functional, scientists and students of our region will highly benefit from its scientific capacity and easy access.

What is the mission of your organization? How does this project help you fulfill it?

Wigner Research Centre for Physics (Wigner RCP) is one of the flagship organizations of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences’ research network and a key participant both in the national innovation system and European research cooperation. The main mission of Wigner RCP is to enhance the understanding of the physical world around us and to recognize the applicability of these findings in the daily life. The proposed development of a significant scientific laboratory at a regional facility meets perfectly its mission: to establish long lasting scientific cooperation between researchers at different institutes and thus to be able to disseminate and contribute to high grade knowledge, as well as to provide state of the art conditions for the next generation of scientists.

How would you describe your organization’s experience in dealing with the proposed topic? Do you have relevant experience running similar projects?

The main research interest of the proposing Femtosecond Spectroscopy and X-ray Spectroscopy Group of Wigner RCP is to study ultrafast structural and electronic dynamics in functional molecules via applying X-ray spectroscopy as probes at international large scale facilities. Recently we have started a new activity by realizing an optical laser based femtosecond absorption setup at Wigner RCP, as well. Our experience with these techniques provides a solid base for the proposed extreme bright laser based X-ray studies at the ELI facility in Prague. Last year we have successfully participated in a Visegrad Grant project to establish the grounds of a V4 cooperation to apply ultrafast X-ray spectroscopy at the ELI Prague (https://visegradproject.ujk.edu.pl). Its success paved the way for the proposed pioneering experiments as well as the extension of the setup with diffractometry..