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EUCALL Report Summary

Project ID: 654220
Funded under: H2020-EU.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - EUCALL (European Cluster of Advanced Laser Light Sources)

Reporting period: 2015-10-01 to 2017-03-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The European Cluster of Advanced Laser Light sources (EUCALL) is a European Union-funded project which groups accelerator- and laser-driven x-ray research infrastructures (RIs). Each of these RIs is operated for use by the wider scientific communities, so-called user facilities. Researchers from a wide range of science disciplines perform investigations using these facilities, leading to new scientific know-how, materials and, possibly, to new products. Europe has a leading position worldwide in Photon Science applications and technology, and the overall network of accelerator- and laser-driven user RIs is one fundament of this position. The overlap between optical lasers and accelerator-based x-ray light sources has been limited for a long time, due to differences in their properties and their applications. Optical lasers are now so powerful that they can drive sources of x-rays and this community now builds and operates large RIs providing these secondary x-ray sources to users. At the same time, the development of accelerator-driven x-ray free-electron lasers allows the generation of x-rays with laser properties for the first time, enabling the use of experimental techniques which until recently have been possible only using laser sources. Both of these developments start to fill a longstanding gap between the laser- and accelerator-based RIs.
Within EUCALL, accelerator- and laser-based RIs cooperate on common technical, scientific, and strategic issues for the first time, with the goal to make the future operation of these facilities more efficient, and therefore more sustainable. EUCALL includes most light source facilities in Europe, contributing new technologies and scientific applications of high relevance to these new types of light sources. EUCALL provides solutions to technology and operation needs common to these RIs. Examples of technology developments within EUCALL include new standardized sample holders, new sensors and detectors for x-ray beams, new computer software to fully simulate experiments at the various light sources, and new schemes for ultrafast data transfer for experiments at the RIs. EUCALL will develop methods and processes, and will enable an exchange of know-how between the facilities, which together will enable the RIs, and also the wider light source communities, to better exploit the great research and innovation potential that these RIs provide. Through its results EUCALL will further harmonize the landscape of both classes of photon science RIs in Europe and beyond.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

To better understand the full scope of existing methods and opportunities, their complementarity, and to identify opportunities for future collaboration and developments, EUCALL has collected data about the current instrumentation at each RI. A similar effort has been made to study how the different RIs support various types of innovation. Two workshops were defined to enhance experience exchange between the laser and accelerator RI operators. A third workshop will address life science applications at EUCALL RIs. This will bring together scientists from the user communities and RI personnel, and possibly from industry, to gather an overview of what EUCALL facilities can provide in this important area of application.
A new software package, SIMEX, was created to simulate various types of experiments using different x-ray light sources. The simulations track the x-rays on their way from the photon source to the sample and further to the x-ray detector and data. Scientists from EUCALL’s facilities collected individual programs that simulate each step of the experiment chain and connected hem with new interface software to build a platform that researchers can use. SIMEX is already publicly available for anyone to access.
Modern x-ray experiments generate large amounts of data on ultrashort timescales. Most computing systems cannot keep up with the high data rates and new solutions are needed. EUCALL’s scientists have identified what their various scientific applications have in common, in terms of data rates and formats. This led to definition of best practices for high data rate analysis. EUCALL is already applying these practices to solve important challenges in data acquisition at its RIs.
Each x-ray source has its own kind of sample holder for different experiments. EUCALL has designed a standardized sample holder for photon science experiments. This will allow users of different photon science RIs to freely exchange samples. Users can prepare their samples on this sample holder and ship them to any of EUCALL’s facilities. EUCALL’s system has an “intelligent” sample scanner which uses a microscope to automatically detect where the interesting regions are. EUCALL’s system then positions the sample into the x-ray beam for the experiment. Prototypes of hardware and software to run this new system have been made and are being tested.
Each of EUCALL’s RIs generates intense, ultra-short and partially coherent x-ray pulses with properties often changing from pulse to pulse. For scientific applications it is paramount to measure these properties without altering the pulses significantly. In EUCALL the performance of various specific developments is investigated and, further, how these techniques can be applied at other EUCALL RIs. Examples include a residual gas-based x-ray intensity monitor, two different techniques to measure the time delay between laser and x-ray pulses, and a wavefront sensor, which measures the “shape” of an x-ray pulse. Each of these new systems is being tested by EUCALL’s scientists.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

EUCALL develops technology and contributes to process optimization reaching beyond the present state of the art in instrumentation, science outreach and operation of RIs, being themselves at the edge of present-day technologies. For sample holder devices new processes and standardization schemes will enable investigations requiring high repetition-rates and high-precision positioning devices. In the area of new x-ray diagnostic tools, EUCALL will test and implement new methods and devices, and will enable the use of these devices to spread to all RIs. EUCALL’s new solutions for the simulation of experiments will enable users to perform experiments more efficiently and, therefore, more successfully. New schemes for ultrafast data services will enable on-line data inspection, make experiments more efficient, and support data analysis. These technology and process advances will benefit RIs and researchers. Furthermore, EUCALL results allow exploitation and development of synergies amongst the EUCALL RIs, e.g. in the analysis and development of the instrumentation portfolio, in operational procedures, and also in providing know-how and experience exchange for activities supporting innovation.
EUCALL provides important know-how for the start of operation of two international ESFRI facilities, the Extreme Light Infrastructure and European XFEL. Exploiting the combined expertise of the laser and x-ray communities, EUCALL is a bridge between the accelerator- and laser-driven light source RIs, benefitting the larger European Research Area and the various communities of researchers using these RIs. EUCALL’s cooperation is unprecedented worldwide and will significantly contribute to Europe’s competitiveness and leadership in terms of research and innovation capacity.

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