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X-ray Free Electron Lasers: A combined virtual lab and real-lab experience of European XFEL (Hamburg)

ECTS credits:



Course parameters:

Language: English

Level of course: PhD course

Time of year: Summer 2022

No. of contact hours/hours in total incl. preparation, assignment(s) or the like: 35 (5x7 hours) / 75 (total, including reading material and writing report)

27 (4.5 x 6hrs)/75 hrs (total)

Capacity limits: 20 participants


Objectives of the course:

This graduate course is for PhD students and other researchers who wish to use X-ray free electron lasers (XFEL) in their research. The course provides the student with an introduction to the basics of the world’s most brilliant X-ray — XFEL and detailed functional view of contemporary XFEL beamlines around the world. This course features an innovation teaching method, using a Virtual Lab software to execute students’ own live experiments at European XFEL Hamburg. Students have opportunities to look inside each technical component and make live adjustment to align X-ray laser beams and collect physical meaningful data for a realistic experiment. It will cover the techniques of femtosecond X-ray emission spectroscopy and pump-probe femtosecond X-ray diffractions. The collected data will be analyzed in computer exercises and compared with real-world published results in the literature. In addition, the course will take place in European XFEL facility in Hamburg, Germany, including an on-site visit and tour in experimental hutches.


Learning outcomes and competences:

At the end of the course, the student should be able to:

- describe the basics of X-ray free electron lasers (XFEL), including experimental concepts and main applications in chemistry, materials, and physics research.

- conduct simple experiments of pump-probe femtosecond X-ray diffraction and/or time-resolved X-ray emission spectroscopy using XFEL facilities with the support of beamline scientist.

- analyze XFEL data such as pump-probe femtosecond X-ray diffraction data and X-ray emission spectroscopy data in terms of quantification and visualization

- compare XFEL with synchrotron X-ray scattering experiments and describe the uniqueness and advantages of XFEL.

- develop ideas of how X-ray free electron lasers could be applied in his/her own research


Compulsory programme:

Participation in all course components, including lectures, virtual lab experimental, computer exercises and on-site visit at EU XFEL Hamburg.


Course contents:

Below is a preliminary outline of the course, subject to changes until course start:


Arrival at European XFEL facility in Hamburg from Denmark


9-12 Lectures: an introduction to XFEL and Virtual Lab

14-17 XFEL tours at EU XFEL Hamburg


9-12 Ultrafast time-resolved X-ray emission spectroscopy

14-17 Ultrafast time-resolved X-ray diffraction experiments


9-12 Virtual lab experiments guided by teachers

14-17 students work on Virtual lab, data collection and analysis

19-21 BBQ dinner


9-12 DESY/Flash tour

14-17 topic (e.g. prepare presentation)


9-12 wrap-up

12 lunch

14 departure



Bachelor degree or similar within natural science, technology, or medicine


Name of lecturers:

Martin Meedom Nielsson (Professor in Physics at DTU, to be confirmed)

Christian Bressel (Professor in Physics at Hamburg University)

Shuai Wei (Assistant Professor in Materials Chemistry at Aarhus University)


Type of course/teaching methods:

Lectures, Virtual Lab experimental exercises, computer exercises, on-site visit



  1. XFEL Virtual Lab script (provided by the course lecturer)
  2. P. Zalden, et al. Femtosecond x-ray diffraction reveals a liquid–liquid phase transition in phase-change materials. Science. 364, 1062–1067 (2019).
  3. W. Zhang, et al. Tracking excited-state charge and spin dynamics in iron coordination complexes. Nature. 509, 345–348 (2014).
  4. D. Khakhulin, et al. Ultrafast X-ray Photochemistry at European XFEL: Capabilities of the Femtosecond X-ray Experiments (FXE) Instrument. Applied Sciences. 10, 995 (2020).


Course assessment:

Group presentations of the results from the virtual lab experiments.



Department of Chemistry, Aarhus University

European XFEL

Hamburg University


Special comments on this course:

The one-week focus course will take place in European XFEL campus in Hamburg, Germany. Bus trip will be organized from Aarhus, Denmark. Accommodation will be on-site.



8-12 August 2022



European XFEL, Hamburg, Germany



Deadline for registration is 15 July 2022 and is open for researchers from all Danish research institutions. Please note that the maximum number of participants is limited. Information regarding admission will be sent out no later than 1 August 2022.

For registration: please send an e-mail to the local contact at Aarhus University, Assistant Professor Shuai Wei, e-mail: shuai.wei@chem.au.dk


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