HIR3X - Helmholtz Joint Lab

HIR3X is the Helmholtz International Laboratory on Reliability, Repetition, Results at the most Advanced X-Ray Sources.

The revolutionary new capabilities of X-ray free-electron lasers (FEL) have launched a new field of ultrafast X-ray science. FELs generate femtosecond-duration X-ray pulses with a peak brightness more than a billion times higher than any previous source. This has led to our first direct measurements of chemistry and catalysis in action at the atomic scale, movies of magnetization dynamics at the nanoscale, the observation of the evolution of exotic quantum dynamics (such as squeezed phonons) in solids, the generation and study of extreme states of matter as found in the cores of stars and planets, or atoms stripped of electrons from the inside giving new insights into atomic structure. FELs have also provided superior images of proteins that are free from effects of radiation damage that plague the conventional methods of X-ray crystallography and cyro-electron microscopy.

In this Helmholtz International Laboratory, we aim to address the reliability and throughput of various subsystems to achieve high-rate FEL measurements of complex systems. The Laboratory is organized into four work packages that each propose a novel and bold approach to improve reliability. This starts from applying machine learning to the operation of the accelerator and generation of X-ray pulses, as well as to the detection and analysis of X-ray signals. We aim to deploy robotic control of the delivery of samples to avoid interruptions and downtime, and to address challenges in the transport of high-power X-ray beams to experiments. These issues are common to our high-rate facilities and are best addressed collaboratively with pooled resources. Common solutions will enable standardization of experiments and protocols which will further foster collaboration in other areas and promote reliability and ease of use.

The main objective of this joint lab is to push the performance of advanced accelerator-based X-ray sources and their applications in specific research areas to their full capability and potential by using novel optimization and automation strategies. This, in turn, will open the use of these advanced experimental techniques to a larger number of non-expert users.