powerBridge Computer equips the European XFEL x-ray laser with MicroTCA computer technology


Fig.: Fully functional timing/LLRF control system based on MTCA.4 installed in FLASH. Generation of ultra-short laser pulses (4.1 nm).

Since 2009 the European XFEL x-ray laser has been under construction in northern Hamburg as an international joint venture involving 11 nations. XFEL is an underground superconducting linear accelerator with an overall installation length of 3.4 km and planned construction costs of more than one billion Euros.

With exposure times under 100 femtoseconds and 27,000 images per second, it will for the first time be possible to observe or, as may apply, film the sequence of chemical and biological processes at a molecular level. This will open up new possibilities for research that at the moment can hardly be imagined. Commissioning is scheduled to commence in 2016, with research operations due to start in 2017. Further information about the XFEL x-ray laser can be found at http://www.xfel.eu.

Provision of the computer technology for the x-ray laser's measuring technology and control commenced at the beginning of 2015. powerBridge Computer is supplying significant components such as high-end CPU modules and MCHs to several hundred MicroTCA systems in all.

Sustainability, the desire for the ability to implement high-performance systems at the limits of what is technically feasible in the smallest space possible, the ability to reliably operate computer modules even with high power dissipation, the requirement for the highest transfer rates and comprehensive manageability were the decisive factors for this project opting for MicroTCA technology. Using the standard system, MicroTCA simultaneously meets the requirement for the highest level of reliability and centralised control and administration. These are significant prerequisites for being able to guarantee the planned operating life of 15 years. Development of the MTCA.4 sub-standard driven forward by Dr Kay Rehlich, head of control systems for the XFEL project at DESY, optimises MicroTCA for applications with high-performance data capture. This was the first time that high-resolution HF-ADCs could be integrated with high signal/noise ratio in MicroTCA systems.

Together with our partners Concurrent Technologies, Interface Concept, N.A.T., Pentair Technical Solutions and TEWS Technologies, we at powerBridge Computer have been actively supporting the European XFEL Project since 2008 by developing products. These include, for example, FPGA-based high definition, high-speed ADC’s and a series of MicroTCA Chassis designs.

Over the course of the past year, MicroTCA has become the standard platform for international high energy physics. This technology is now increasingly making in-roads into industrial and communication applications. As a result, the high degree of system scalability and the compact design are often decisive factors. Our new MicroTCA catalogue illustrates MicroTCA's possibilities and provides a comprehensive overview of the range of products. It is available as a PDF document in German and English at powerbridge.de, and can also be obtained in printed format.




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