Watch as World's Largest X-Ray Laser Gun Goes Live in Germany

European XFEL
The European XFEL X-ray laser in Hamburg. The 1.22 billion euro research facility involves 11 European countries. European XFEL (PR newsfoto/Hamburg Marketing GmbH)

The largest X-ray laser in the world will open Friday with the power to penetrate deep into the tiny world of atoms, viruses and chemical reactions.

You can even watch the opening ceremony in Hamburg, Germany, which includes a brief test of the machinery, on this live stream at 9 a.m. ET.

In regular operation from Friday onwards, the European XFEL will generate 27,000 X-ray laser flashes per second and a luminance a billion times greater than conventional X-ray sources, according to a press release from the city's marketing board.

"It will enable international scientists to decipher the molecular composition of viruses and cells, take three-dimensional images of the nanoworld, film chemical reactions and study processes occurring deep inside planets," the release said.

The laser is "like a camera and a microscope that will make it possible to see more tiny details and processes in the nanoworld than ever before," said Robert Feidenhans, chairman of the project's management board, according to

Other X-ray lasers include one at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Palo Alto, California, and the Riken/Harima X-ray free electron laser in Japan.

The technology to build the vastly powerful machines first began to be developed in the 1980s but has only been brought into operation relatively recently.

Potential uses for it include detailed study of minor flaws in building materials to better understand their weaknesses, and detailed imaging of biomolecules, including capturing thousands of images of biomolecules to create "movies" of their behavior, which could help treat illnesses.

The new facility took eight years to build and cost 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion). Eleven European countries are involved with the project: Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, while the U.K. is in the process of joining.