EXPO 2000

29 April 1999

At the Germany DESY laboratory in Hamburg, an ambitious X-ray laser is scheduled to come into regular operation in the year 2003. Next year, on-site EXPO 2000 visitors will be able to see the new machine being constructed.


‘To see something new, you must make something new.’ This quotation from 18th-century German scientist and philosopher Lichtenberg was a favourite of the late Bjoern Wiik, chairman of the DESY Directorate, and chief promoter of DESY’s TESLA electron­positron linear collider and X-ray laser project.

While for particle physicists this credo seems natural, the general public and many politicians usually find it harder to digest, especially when facing the finance of basic research.

Conveying the purpose of basic research and introducing the public to the thrill and fascination of frontier science and discovery are the main goals of a new DESY exhibition, which is planned to take place in Hamburg from June to October 2000, as one of the Worldwide Projects of the EXPO 2000 World Exhibition.


The Light for the New Millennium will be delivered by the new type of Free Electron Laser (FEL) into which DESY’s TESLA Test Facility (TTF) will eventually be converted. What had started mainly as a testbed for TESLA’s superconducting acceleration principle will be extended as a 300 m FEL delivering laser light of wavelengths in the soft-X-ray range down to 6 nm. Radiation generation via the SASE (self-amplified spontaneous emission) principle is a completely novel technique allowing high-intensity laser pulses to be produced at these short wavelengths for the first time. SASE-FEL proof of principle is foreseen later this year.

The facility, which is due to go into test operation in 2002 and be available to users from all over the world a year later, will be under construction during the exhibition. Visitors will witness the machine being built and inspect it much more closely than would ever again be possible during operation.


However, accelerator and FEL components in the facility’s tunnel will be only one facet of the DESY-EXPO: a 1200 square-metre exhibition in the future experimental hall will show the technology and research opportunities of the new device, general DESY research ­in both synchrotron radiation and particle physics ­ and the laboratory’s plans for the future.

Laser insights

Multimedia and virtual reality shows as well as hands-on experiments will introduce the fascination of science and the emotion and thrill of discovery. Subjects will include “From light to microscopes to the X-ray laser”, “Laser technology in science and everyday life”, New insights opened up by the FEL in fields such as biology and materials sciences, and a presentation of DESY, its research programme and its planned TESLA project.

With 50 000 visitors expected, exhibition staff will be supported by DESY’s own undergraduate and graduate students, plus ­a new idea ­undergraduates from other German universities, who will be offered a research trainee period at DESY in return.

Exhibition languages will be German and English. Admission, which is free, will be from 1 June to 31 October 2000, from 10.00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m daily but until midnight on Thursdays. In the meantime, the Web site at “” is well worth a visit.

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