The free-electron X-ray laser SwissFEL at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) in Switzerland has hosted its inaugural experiment, marking the facility’s first science result and demonstrating that its many complex components are working as expected. Construction of 740m-long SwissFEL began in April 2013, with the aim of producing extremely short X-ray laser pulses for the study of ultrafast reactions and processes.

Between 27 November and 4 December 2017, PSI researchers and a research group from the University of Rennes in France conducted the first in a series of pilot experiments.

The high-energy X-ray light pulses enabled the team to investigate the electrical and magnetic properties of titanium pentoxide nanocrystals, which have potential applications in high-density data storage. This and further pilot experiments will help hone SwissFEL operations before regular user operations begin in January 2019.