Research Highlights

In this category especially chosen Research Highlights are presented in more detail, which have been published in a peer reviewed journal. Please recommend interesting papers, which are suitable for future highlights, to Wiebke Laasch.

15 October 2019

PETRA III shows possible route to new rocket fuels


High-energy materials that can store very large amounts of chemical energy and release it when required are being sought for long- haul space travel worldwide. Nitrogen compounds in which several nitrogen atoms are linked by single bonds possess this ability. These compounds are difficult to synthesize because they are highly unstable. At DESY's X-ray light source PETRA III, scientists from the ...

24 September 2019

How molecular footballs burst in an X-ray laser beam


An international research team has observed in real time how football molecules made of carbon atoms burst in the beam of an X-ray laser. The study shows the temporal course of the bursting process, which takes less than a trillionth of a second, and is important for the analysis of sensitive proteins and other biomolecules, which are also frequently studied using bright X-ray laser flashes. The football ...

28 August 2019

First high-speed hard X-ray microscopic movies at a free-electron laser


A group of researchers, also from DESY and other insitutions, has for the first time performed high-speed microscopy using an X-ray laser at the European XFEL. The team produced a super slow-motion movie of a bursting glass capillary with micrometre spatial resolution. The method allows for observations of processes that take place at speeds up to a few kilometres per second, paving the way for 3D ...

20 August 2019

FLASH coaxes superfluorescent emission from the noble gas xenon


Scientists have for the first time induced superfluorescence in the extreme ultraviolet range. Superfluorescence, or superradiance, could be used to build a laser that does not require an optical resonator. The team headed by DESY’s lead scientist Nina Rohringer used DESY’s free-electron laser FLASH to stimulate ...

29 July 2019

Quantum movie displays probability density distribution of rotating carbonyl sulphide molecules


A team of scientists, also from DESY, have used precisely tuned pulses of laser light to film the ultrafast rotation of a molecule. The resulting “molecular movie” tracks one and a half revolutions of carbonyl sulphide (OCS) – a rod-shaped molecule consisting of one oxygen, one carbon and one sulphur atom – taking place within 125 trillionths of a second, at a high temporal and ...

11 July 2019

Coupled terahertz device significantly improves electron beam quality


Scientists at DESY have achieved a new world record for an experimental type of miniature particle accelerator: For the first time, a terahertz powered accelerator more than doubled the energy of the injected electrons. At the same time, the setup significantly improved the electron beam quality compared to earlier experiments with the technique, as Dongfang Zhang and his colleagues from the Center for ...

09 July 2019

Spraying nanopaper


With a new spray coating process, investigated at PETRA III, very uniform layers of cellulose nanofibers (CNF) can be produced on an industrial scale. X-ray measurements at DESY's light source, as well as investigations with an atomic force microscope and neutron scattering show how the layer is structured and can be ...

05 July 2019

Extremely hard yet metallically conductive


An international research group led by scientists from the University of Bayreuth has identified at PETRA III a previously unknown material: Rhenium nitride pernitride. Thanks to a combination of properties that were previously considered incompatible, it looks set to become highly attractive for technological applications. ...

25 June 2019

X-ray investigation reveals beryllium configuration with five and six neighbouring oxygen atoms for the first time


In high-pressure experiments at DESY's X-ray light source PETRA III, scientists have observed a unique configuration of beryllium for the first time: At pressures nearly a million times the average atmospheric pressure, beryllium in a phosphate crystal acquires six neighbouring atoms instead of the usual four. This ...

24 June 2019

New device squeezes samples with 1.6 billion atmospheres per second


A new super-fast high-pressure device at DESY's X-ray light source PETRA III allows scientists to simulate and study earthquakes and meteorite impacts more realistically in the lab. The new-generation dynamic diamond anvil cell (dDAC), developed by scientists from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), DESY, the European Synchrotron Radiation Source ESRF, and the universities of Oxford, ...

13 June 2019

Laser trick produces high-energy terahertz pulses


A team of scientists from DESY and the University of Hamburg has achieved an important milestone in the quest for a new type of compact particle accelerator. Using ultra-powerful pulses of laser light, they were able to produce particularly high-energy flashes of radiation in the terahertz range having a sharply defined wavelength (colour). Terahertz radiation is to open the way for a new generation of ...

24 May 2019

X-rays show self-organisation of nanocrystals live


Using X-rays, a DESY research team has watched live how nanocrystals organise themselves into a highly ordered layer. The study helps to better understand the self-organisation of nanoparticles, which is important for many technical applications, for example in electronics and optoelectronics, as the scientists write in the journal Small.



10 May 2019

Spin waves from a microcrystal


An international team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research, DESY, University of Stuttgart, Pohang University of Science and Technology POSTECH (South Korea) and the University of Tokyo (Japan) has determined the spectrum of collective magnetic excitations (“spin waves”) in a ruthenium-oxide antiferromagnet, which exhibits an unusually high ...

09 May 2019

Nanometre gaps can crystallise liquids


Very narrow gaps make liquids crystallise partially. X-ray investigations at PETRA III show that in gaps just a few molecule diameters wide both, liquid and crystal properties of a material can exist at the same time. The observation of this coexistence is important for all liquids in very small cavities and thus also for the study of friction (tribology). The team led by DESY researchers Milena Lippmann ...

26 April 2019

Flexible circuits for 3D printing


A research cooperation between the University of Hamburg and DESY has developed a process suitable for 3D printing that can be used to produce transparent and mechanically flexible electronic circuits. The electronics consists of a mesh of silver nanowires that can be printed in suspension and embedded in various flexible and transparent plastics (polymers). This technology can enable new applications ...

02 April 2019

Exotic properties of iridium compounds


Scientists at DESY’s X-ray source PETRA III and the London Centre for Nanotechnology, at University College London, have developed a new method for examining the astonishing properties of a special class of iridium oxides known as iridates. The team of principal author Pavel Alexeev, from the Dynamics Beamline P01 at PETRA III, is presenting the procedure ...

02 April 2019

New method for imaging electronic orbitals in solids - Study at PETRA III


Orbital states are quantum mechanical constructions that describe the probability to find an electron in an atom, molecule or solid.  We know from atomic physics that an s-orbital is spherical or that a p-orbital is dumbbell-shaped, but how do the complicated distributions of the electrons that contribute to chemical bonds in solids look like? ...

29 March 2019

How virtual photons alter atomic X-ray spectra


Certain X-ray optical properties of metal atoms can be controlled with the help of virtual photons. This has been demonstrated for the first time by a DESY research team at PETRA III, by using the highly brilliant radiation from this X-ray light source at DESY. In the journal Physical Review Letters they report on how the X-ray spectra of metal atoms can be controlled by virtual photons. This ...

22 March 2019

The taming of the light screw


Scientists from DESY, the MPSD, the University of Hamburg and the CUI Cluster of Excellence create high-order harmonics from solids with controlled polarization states, taking advantage of both crystal symmetry and attosecond electronic dynamics. The newly demonstrated technique might find intriguing applications in petahertz electronics and for spectroscopic studies of novel quantum materials.


20 March 2019

Researchers generate the shortest ultraviolet laser pulse ever


Researchers at CFEL at DESY have generated a 1.9-femtosecond ultraviolet laser light pulse - setting a record for ultraviolet (UV) laser pulses with the shortest duration. The experiments, published in the recent issue of the scientific journal Optics Letters, outshine the previous record of 2.8 femtoseconds, set in 2010.



The 1.9-femtosecond pulse (1 femtosecond is a millionth of ...

15 March 2019

Scientists go to extremes to reveal make-up of Earth’s core


Experiments conducted at extreme conditions, also at PETRA III at DESY, are giving scientists new insights into the chemical make-up of the Earth’s core. Advanced laboratory techniques reveal that our planet’s metal centre – more than 1,800 miles below the surface – also contains silicon, an ...

04 March 2019

Scientists develop printable water sensor


A new, versatile plastic-composite sensor can detect tiny amounts of water. The 3d printable material, developed by a Spanish-Israeli team of scientists and studied at PETRA III, is cheap, flexible and non-toxic and changes its colour from purple to blue in wet conditions. The researchers lead by Pilar Amo-Ochoa from the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM) used DESY’s X-ray light source to ...

11 February 2019

Innovative method enables new view into Earth's interior


An innovative X-ray method enables new high-pressure investigations of samples under deep mantle conditions. The technique, which was developed by a team led by Georg Spiekermann from DESY, the German Research Centre for Geosciences GFZ and the University of Potsdam, extends the range of instruments available to high-pressure researchers. Successful tests of the new method at DESY's X-ray light source ...

04 February 2019

What keeps spiders on the ceiling?


Hunting spiders easily climb vertical surfaces or move upside down on the ceiling. A thousand tiny hairs at the ends of their legs make sure they do not fall off. Like the spider’s exoskeleton, these bristle-like hairs (so-called setae) mainly consist of proteins and chitin, which is a polysaccharide. To find out more about their fine structure, an interdisciplinary research team from the Biology ...

01 February 2019

X-rays reveal layout of loaded drug transporter


Experiments at DESY's X-ray source PETRA III have revealed the first structure of a biological transporter protein loaded with a pro-drug. Prodrugs are inactive medications that are metabolized into an active, functional form within the body. They can hijack the human nutrient transporter proteins PepT1 or PepT2 that are located in the cell membrane and usually channel peptides derived from digested ...

31 January 2019

Simulating meteorite impacts in the lab


A US-German research team has simulated meteorite impacts in the lab and followed the resulting structural changes in two feldspar minerals with X-rays as they happened. The results of the experiments at DESY and at Argonne National Laboratory in the US show that structural changes can occur at very different pressures, depending on the compression rate. The findings, published in the 1 February issue of ...

24 January 2019

Platinum forms Nano-Bubbles


Platinum, a noble metal, is oxidised more quickly than expected under conditions that are technologically relevant. This has emerged from a study jointly conducted by the DESY NanoLab and the Vienna University of Technology. Devices that contain platinum, such as the catalytic converters used to reduce exhaust emissions in cars, can suffer a loss in efficacy as a result of this reaction. The team around ...