News and Research Highlights

Latest announcements about Photon Science at DESY as well as important research or technical news can be found here:

10 June 2021 · Research Highlight

X-ray flash imaging of laser-induced bubbles and shockwaves in water


Everyone is familiar with tiny gas bubbles gently rising up in sparkling water. But the bubbles that were created by intense focused lasers in this experiment were ten times smaller and contained water vapour at a pressure around a hundred thousand times higher. Under these conditions, the bubble expands at supersonic speed and pushes a shockwave, consisting of a spherical shell of highly compressed ...

25 May 2021 · Research Highlight

Ultrafast lasers can protect a DNA building block from light-induced dissociation


An international research team led by DESY researcher Francesca Calegari and with the key participation of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) has demonstrated that ultrashort laser pulses can be used to protect one of the DNA building blocks against destruction induced by vacuum ultraviolet (VUV) radiation. The research group unveiled that a second laser flash in the ...

20 May 2021 · Research Highlight

Deep oceans dissolve the rocky shell of water planets


High-pressure experiments at PETRA III and the APS show that the hidden oceans of water planets selectively leach magnesium from typical rock minerals at conditions of pressures of hundred thousand atmospheres and temperatures above one thousand degrees Celsius. An international research team led by Taehyun Kim of the Yonsei University in South Korea reports its findings in the journal Nature Astronomy. ...

17 May 2021 · Research Highlight

A shortcut to promising high-density materials


An international group of researchers including from DESY has pioneered a new way of performing static high-pressure and high-temperature experiments, using so-called diamond-anvil cells at the X-ray laser European XFEL, and discovered a new, faster route to produce iron nitrides, promising candidates for high-density data storage and other applications. The scientists report their results in two ...

17 May 2021 · Research Highlight

Atomic structure of the type 7 secretion system of the tuberculosis pathogen solved


In a new study, published in Nature, CSSB researchers and international collaborators reveal new insights into the structure of a key system of the tuberculosis pathogen: Type VII secretion systems are molecular machines that play key roles in the infection cycle of many pathogenic mycobacteria, including the notorious Mycobacterium tuberculosis. A deeper understanding of the structure and ...

07 May 2021

Innovation for light sources in Europe


The LEAPS-INNOV kick-off meeting took place online on 20 and 21 April with over 140 participants. LEAPS-INNOV is a project under the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme. It will implement the LEAPS technology roadmap and enhance partnership with industry by offering joint technological developments and advanced research capabilities with LEAPS members for industry as ...

30 April 2021 · Research Highlight

Dance of the molecules


A Hamburg research team is paving the way for new methods of producing tailor-made materials: for the first time, the scientists from DESY NanoLab and the Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH) have deciphered the collective arrangement of organic acid molecules on an iron oxide surface at the atomic level. The formic acid molecules they studied perform a kind of dance in groups of three on magnetite ...

15 April 2021 · Research Highlight

Nanoantennas pave the way to compact petahertz oscilloscopes


A team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, Boston, USA), DESY, Universität Hamburg and the University of California at Davis (USA), has succeeded in generating electron pulses with a duration of only a few hundred attoseconds on metallic nanoantennas and used them to measure extremely weak electric fields. An attosecond (as) corresponds to the billionth part of a ...

13 April 2021 · Research Highlight

Microscopic origins of electrical conductivity in superheated solids revealed at FLASH


In-depth understanding of the electrical conductivity of matter is the key to many cutting-edge research and applications, ranging from phase-change memory in microelectronics to magnetospheres rooted in planetary interiors due to the motion of the conductive fluid. Unique states of material created by ultrafast table-top lasers or free-electron lasers (FEL) allow us to gain insight ...

02 April 2021 · Research Highlight

DESY X-ray lightsource identifies promising candidates for COVID drugs


A team of researchers has identified several candidates for drugs against the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 at the X-ray lightsource PETRA III. They bind to an important protein of the virus and could thus be the basis for a drug against Covid-19. In a so-called X-ray screening, the researchers, under the leadership of DESY, tested almost 6000 known active substances that already exist for the treatment of other ...

31 March 2021 · Research Highlight

The egg in the X-ray beam


A team of scientists has been using DESY’s X-ray source PETRA III to analyse the structural changes that take place in an egg when you cook it. The work reveals how the proteins in the white of a chicken egg unfold and cross-link with each other to form a solid structure when heated. Their innovative method can be of interest to the food industry as well as to the broad field of research surrounding ...

29 March 2021

More than 250 scientists met online for the CMWS DAYS 2021


About 275 participants from 19 countries met online from 24th-25th March 2021 for the CMWS DAYS 2021 to discuss the key challenges in molecular water research and the status and future of the Centre for Molecular Water Science (CMWS).



Water is the most important liquid for our life and plays an important role in biology, chemistry, physics, and geoscience with high relevance for many ...

25 March 2021 · Research Highlight

Unexpected new cubic symmetry in group IV alloys investigated at PETRA III


The group IVA column of elements (C, Si, Ge, Sn, Pb) occupies a prominent position in the periodic table. The cubic diamond symmetry (Fd-3m) is a prominent contributor to this position, as exemplified by super-hard cubic C and through cubic Si, the material driver behind the electronics industry. Using high-pressure, ...

23 March 2021 · Research Highlight

Scientists observe unusual melting of diamond


An international team of scientists including from DESY has found evidence of an unconventional melting process in diamond induced by an X-ray laser beam. While in conventional melting the atoms of a sample start moving stronger and stronger until their bonds break due to heating, the incredibly intense X-ray laser flashes ripped the bonds apart straight away, and only afterwards the atoms started moving ...

19 March 2021

DGK 2021 online conference at DESY attracted very high attendance


The DGK conference is held annually by the German Crystallographic Society - the Deutschen Gesellschaft für Kristallographie. A very high number of more than 600 participants, mainly from Germany, but also from 20 other countries, registered for this years’ conference which took place online for the ...

10 March 2021 · Research Highlight

Bacteria needle under the electron microscope


For the first time, researchers from CSSB have revealed the syringe-like type-III secretion system of Gram-negative bacteria in action. In the research study, published in Nature Communications, the group of Thomas Marlovits from the Centre for Structural Systems Biology (CSSB) at the DESY campus provides new insights into how pathogenic bacteria such as Salmonella infect human cells. ...

05 March 2021 · Research Highlight

Minerals let Earth's oceans seep down deeper than expected


A bigger volume of the world's oceans is seeping deeper into Earth's mantle than expected: That is the result of a study investigating a water-bearing mineral abundant in the oceanic crust. High-pressure experiments at DESY's X-ray source PETRA III show that the mineral glaucophane is surprisingly stable up to 240 kilometres underground, which means it also carries water down to this depth. ...

01 March 2021

Sustainable harvesting of electrical energy with nanoporous materials


In the research project "Energy harvesting via wetting/drying cycles with nanoporous electrodes EHAWEDRY", an international team wants to investigate whether phase transitions of water in nanopores can be used to generate electrical energy on a larger scale. If the interdisciplinary project, which is being funded with a total of almost three million euros over four years, is successful, it could ...

24 February 2021 · Research Highlight

Direct observation of charge separation in an organic light-harvesting system


Molecular heterojunctions receive significant attention due to their key role in a wide variety of emerging organic semiconductor applications, such as organic light-emitting diodes, field-effect transistors, spintronic devices, and photovoltaic cells. Understanding ultrafast dynamics of photon-to-charge conversion is paramount for optimising novel light-harvesting ...

18 February 2021 · Research Highlight

High-pressure experiments provide insight into icy planets


An international team of scientists has been using X-rays to take a look inside distant ice planets. At the PETRA III Extreme Conditions Beamline, they investigated how water ice behaves at high pressure, under conditions corresponding to those inside the planet Neptune, for example. At pressures up to almost two million times atmospheric pressure at sea level on Earth, the researchers were able to ...

15 February 2021 · Research Highlight

Researchers watch nanomaterials growing in real time


For the first time, a team of scientists including from DESY has succeeded in capturing in real time the first few milliseconds in the life of a gold coating as it forms on a polymer. The team used PETRA III to observe the earliest stages in the growth of a metal-polymer hybrid material as a film of gold was applied to a ...

08 February 2021 · Research Highlight

Measuring chirps at extremely high frequencies at FLASH


A new method provides an ultra-fast plasma switch, which temporally cuts off parts of high-frequency light flashes. Carried trillions of times faster by light waves than by sound waves, these flashes sound like birdsong and cricket songs. This understanding opens up new possibilities for optimising state-of-the-art light sources and controlling elementary motions in ...

04 February 2021 · Research Highlight

New combined soft X-ray imaging spectroscopy technique


A collaboration coordinated by scientists from DESY has coupled imaging to X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) and resonant inelastic X-ray scattering (RIXS) to study quantum materials. For the design of future functional devices, like novel computers or data storage elements, it is necessary to structure these materials on the nanoscale. Although soft X-ray spectroscopy has ...

01 February 2021 · Research Highlight

Quantum beats for zeptosecond timing


Quantum systems will be crucial to future technologies. However, in order to use such systems in practical applications, it is necessary to control and manipulate them with great precision. At the PETRA III beamline P01 a Hamburg research team has now succeeded in controlling and measuring a quantum system with hitherto unattainable temporal precision. They managed to control and detect oscillations ...

29 January 2021

Online user meetings discuss Corona research and future facility developments


Due to the Corona pandemic, the annual users' meetings 2021 for the Hamburg X-ray light sources took place completely online for the first time this year. The users of PETRA III and FLASH met from 25 to 29 January at the DESY Photon Science Users' Meeting and traditionally at the same time as the users of the European X-ray laser European XFEL. The interest was undiminished: In total, more than ...

26 January 2021 · Research Highlight

Towards ultimate time resolution correlation dynamic studies at PETRA IV


A research team from DESY has demonstrated for the first time the feasibility of employing intrinsic pulse structure of PETRA III to conventional X-ray Photon Correlation Spectroscopy to achieve nanosecond time resolution in studying dynamical processes of nanoscopic systems. They recorded the fastest correlation times with this technique at storage rings so ...

25 January 2021

Hamburg supports DESY´s large-scale project PETRA IV


Hamburg is supporting the technology development for DESY´s planned large-scale project PETRA IV with 2.85 million euros over the next two years. Funding is being provided for the detailed technical planning phase, the so-called Technical Design Report (TDR) of the unique facility, as a precondition for a decision on the inclusion of the project in the national roadmap for research infrastructures. ...

18 January 2021 · Research Highlight

Clocking the movement of electrons inside an atom


Hard X-ray free-electron lasers (XFELs) have delivered intense, ultrashort X-ray pulses for over a decade. One of the most promising applications of XFELs is in biology, where researchers can capture images down to the atomic scale even before the radiation damage destroys the sample. In physics and chemistry, these X-rays can also shed light on the fastest processes occurring in nature with a shutter ...

15 January 2021 · Research Highlight

Nanomaterials from a 3D X-ray perspective


A new X-ray technique can be used to produce high resolution images of nanocrystals in real time as they are growing, something that has not been done before. To this end, a team from DESY and the University of Hamburg has created three-dimensional cross-sectional images of nanostructures from two-dimensional projections taken through a chemical reactor. The scientists achieved this using multi-slice ...

11 January 2021 · Research Highlight

A clear path to better insights into biomolecules


Using the world's most advanced X-ray laser, European XFEL, an international team of scientists including from DESY has obtained some of the sharpest possible 3D images of gold nanoparticles. The results lay the foundation for getting high resolution images of macromolecules, as the team led by Kartik Ayyer from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter reports in the ...

04 January 2021 · Research Highlight

Exploding water jet in X-ray beam


An interdisciplinary team of scientists, including from DESY, has used ultrashort X-ray pulses to image extremely rapidly exploding jets of water. The experiments, carried out at the X-ray laser facility European XFEL, aim to study ultrafast events that occur in a very small region by means of X-ray holography. “As an example of such an event, we opted for a fine water jet which is made to explode ...