In February 2019, the ELI Beamlines Laser Research Center addressed the scientific community to submit proposals for the implementation of research projects in the E1 experimental hall for research related to applications in molecular, biomedical and material sciences. This was the so-called Commissioning call – the very first call that the ELI Beamlines has launched for external users. Its main purpose was to launch and test four experimental stations by using technologies already in operation in the experimental hall E1. “The experimental hall E1 was conceived as a very variable space providing several unique scientific instruments using high-repetition laser sources and thanks to cooperation with external users we managed to put it into full operation,” says research program manager Jakob Andreasson.
The call met with a great success and several teams from all around the world (USA, Germany, Italy, Great Britain, Russia, Sweden, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic) were interested in experimenting at ELI Beamlines Facility. The research time at the facility was filled very quickly and the experiments are taking place between June and September 2019.
“This call and first successfully conducted experiments represent a real milestone for ELI Beamlines on the way to fulfil our mission to open up unprecedented opportunities for experiments to the worldwide scientific community,” adds Roman Hvězda, ELI Beamlines manager.
As an example of early user activities the MAC user end-station (a Multipurpose user end-station for Atomic, molecular, optical science and Coherent diffractive imaging) headed by Maria Krikunova has participated in 8 weeks of user assisted commissioning activities between May and August. During this time the MAC team was working together with the L1 ALLEGRA laser team (headed by Pavel Bakule and Roman Antipenkov), the Beam Transport team (guided by Ondřej Hort) and High Harmonic Generation (HHG) team (headed by Jaroslav Neidl) and the Beamlines Integration Support team (headed by Tomas Lastovicka) to commission the complex beam transport of the L1 ALLEGRA laser towards the HHG source and MAC station as well as realizing a time preserving monochromator to select individual harmonics (project leader Dong-Du Mai supported by external collaborator Luca Poletto, Institute of Photonics and Nanotechnologies of Padova, Italy). In time, the MAC end-station received support from first users (Tim Oelze, Technische Universität Berlin, Germany and Pamir Nag, Heyrovsky Institute of Physical Chemistry, Prague, Czech Republic) on the commissioning of critical sub systems such as an electron/ion velocity map imaging (VMI) spectrometer and a molecular/cluster beam source. These were crucial steps towards the first user research program on Time-resolved electron spectroscopy of aligned molecules proposed, and strongly supported through the summer, by researchers from University of Southampton (guided by project leader and principle investigator Russell Minns,) and University of Nottingham (guided by co-proposer Katharine Reid) UK.
As another example the end station ELIps dedicated to VUV ellipsometry received its first users within the commissioning call for E1 at the end of June 2019. The user team was composed by two groups, the first one directed by Prof. Stefan Zollner from New Mexico State University, USA, and the second one directed by Dr. Luca Poletto from the Institute of Photonics and Nanotechnologies of Padova, CNR IT. During nine consecutive days they worked with an ELI experimental team headed by Shirly Espinoza, also containing staff from the HHG team, the Beamlines Integration Support team and the L1 ALLEGRA team. The team carried out experiments on gold and silicon samples using energies between 31-70 eV. A second round of experiments will follow the week of September 16-20 with experiments on germanium, nickel and strontium titanate samples.
Another user group of researchers came from Hungary. They did an experiment “Femtosecond Stimulated Raman Spectroscopy” which is a technique that allows to study molecular vibrations, motion, structure and chemical reaction mechanisms in time. The coordinator of this experiment (one of several using the station for ultrafast optical spectroscopy) was Miroslav Kloz from the ELI Beamlines experimental team for applications in molecular, biomedical, and materials sciences. Also the experimental area for X-ray science, headed by Dr. Borislav Angelov, saw user operation during the summer in a series of experiments using the X-ray diffraction station.
The ELI Beamlines researchers involved in the user assisted commissioning and early experiments would like to emphasize that: “This call was highly important for us as a future user facility in our efforts to establish complex work-flows and effective communication routes between different experimental teams and our users. We would like to thank our engineers, our safety and control system team as well as our user office for incredible support. We also would like to acknowledge our first users for active participation in the call as well as for very constructive and helpful feedback”. In general, ELI Beamlines would like to thank the scientific community for their interest in ELI Beamlines capacities and encourage other potential users to follow the developments at the ELI Beamlines Facility. Already before the end of this year, we plan to announce additional calls for users. All information can be found at www.eli-beams.eu/users.