World’s first compact X-ray free electron laser to be constructed at Arizona State

March 8, 2023 — The National Science Foundation awarded ASU $90.8 million to support a five-year project to build the world’s first Compact X-ray Free-Electron Laser, or CXFEL.

The world’s first CXFEL

The compact X-ray free electron laser (CXFEL), currently being developed at Arizona State University, will be the first of its kind in the world. It will provide X-ray pulses so short that they outrun all X-ray damage processes. As a result, scientists can conduct novel science to explore the structure and dynamics of nature and materials as never before.

The CXFEL brings ultrashort X-ray technology from large scale, expensive multibillion-dollar XFEL facilities at national labs to the university – the place where researchers work with their students on novel discoveries for a small fraction of the cost. Currently, there are only five large X-ray free electron lasers in the world, so that only five experiments can be done at any time.

The ASU CXFEL has the potential to be a force-multiplier for discovery. The CXFEL technology may one day be made available to install at other locations to give scientists and medical researchers throughout academia, industry and medicine access to brilliant X-rays in their own laboratories, accelerating and broadening scientific discovery like never before. The project is a prime example of the uncompromising spirit of scientific inquiry.

The CXFEL will enable

  • Movies of biomolecules in action. To visualize drugs binding to receptors at the surface of a cancer cell will fuel development of novel drugs with more specific binding and fewer side effects.
  • Biomedical imaging. Visualizing patient biopsy samples will show fine resolution of the cell structure at much higher detail than even a CT scan.
  • Material and quantum science. To unravel the mechanism of superconductance of quantum material will move us to loss-free transfer of energy over long distances.


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Deanna Clark

Assistant Director of Operations