Accelerator Research and Development (ARD) at DESY

DESY is one of the world's leading accelerator centers and a member of the Helmholtz Association. DESY develops, builds and operates large particle accelerators used to investigate the structure of matter. Accelerator Research and Development (ARD) is a core mission of the lab. 

From left to right: (1) View along XFEL tunnel, the world largest free-electron laser in construction at DESY. (2) DESY scientist working on a super-conducting cavity. (3) An accelerator team in the FLASH control room. (4) Accelerator infrastructure. (5) Aerial view of DESY campus in Hamburg with PETRAIII storage ring. (6) View of an undulator for generating light from electrons. (7) German chancellor Angela Merkel in 2012 getting hands-on accelerator experience from DESY director H. Dosch.


Pursue world-class accelerator R&D as a program topic in the Helmholtz research program. Develop accelerator building expertise to stay at the leading edge of accelerator science. Further develop and invent technologies for improving existing accelerator facilities and for constructing future accelerators with better quality, lower cost, lower power consumption or smaller dimensions. Success in one or several goals will enable us to propose and to build new accelerators for science and society. In particular, very compact and less expensive accelerators will open new doors to medical and other applications (novel accelerators). 

Ralph Aßmann
Leading Scientist

Hans Weise
Leading Scientist


The team for accelerator research and development (ARD) is located in DESY's accelerator division and the particle physics division and operates in strong collaboration with the accelerator physics at University Hamburg. It works on various critical R&D topics for particle accelerators, including the themes defined in the accelerator initiative of the Helmholtz Association.  The ARD team at DESY performs studies on the following research topics:

  1. Super-conducting RF structures towards long pulse and continuous-wave operation as well as
    higher accelerating gradients.
    Contact: H. Weise
  2. Generation of ultra-short, bright electron beams: from pico-second over femto-second to atto-second
    electron and light pulses.
    Contact: H. Schlarb, R. Assmann, F. Stephan, K. Flöttmann
  3. Concepts and realization of innovative plasma particle accelerators: towards next-generation linear
    accelerators with accelerating gradients of above 1 Giga-Volt per meter.
    Contact: R. AssmannF. GrünerJ. Osterhoff, F. Stephan
  4. Developments and optimization of Free-Electron Lasers (FEL´s): optimizing FEL operation with
    different seeding schemes.
    Contact: R. Assmann, W. Hillert.
  5. Ultimate storage rings: reaching diffraction-limited emittances in circular rings.
    Contact: R.Wanzenberg
  6. Future colliders for particle physics (i.e. Higgs factory, ILC, ...).
    Contact: R. Assmann, N. Walker, B. Foster.
  7. Diagnostics of conventional and advanced beams.
    Contact: B. Schmidt


Super-conducting technology R&D in the DESY accelerator division is mainly coordinated by Hans Weise, warm accelerator R&D mainly by Ralph Aßmann. Progress is discussed in common meetings. The work on plasma acceleration is performed in a collaboration between DESY and University Hamburg.

Rolf Wideröe and Gustav-Adolf Voss in the HERA tunnel at DESY (1993).

Remarks on Accelerator R&D in Germany and Inspiration 

Accelerator research in Hamburg is performed in a long and very successful collaboration between DESY and the University Hamburg. In future, the collaboration will be called the "Voss Wideröe Center for Accelerators", a competence field of PIER. Critical concepts for particle acceleration have been invented by R. Wideröe (* 11. July 1902 in Oslo, Norway; † 11. October 1996 in Nussbaumen, Switzerland) during the 1920's in Germany. In his legendary 1927 PhD thesis of 27 pages in Aachen he achieved two breakthroughs: (1) Invention and experimental setup of the first RF linear accelerator and (2) first idea for circular accelerator inspiring Lawrence for the invention of the cyclotron. DESY has constructed frontier accelerators for science in the last 50 years, inventing and further developing various accelerator technologies. G.A. Voss (* 1929 in Berlin, Germany) had a lasting impact on accelerator science in Hamburg. G.A. Voss, together with Robinson, is the inventor of the “Low Beta Insertion”, that enables high event rates in colliders and was the pre-requisite of many discoveries in particle physics. He is a legendary accelerator builder and, as director for accelerators, constructed many of DESY's accelerators with great ingenuity and efficiency. In DESY's accelerator division he set up a lasting tradition of internationality, flat hierarchies, efficiency, commitment and sense of responsibility.   Wideröe and Voss give us excellent examples and we want to build on the foundations they left to us. A 1994 quote from Wideröe can provide inspiration for our path towards future accelerators: "After all, plans can only be made for those accelerators which can realistically be built with the means available, and obviously, these means are limited. Ideas are not subject to any such considerations. The limitations are set only by the intellect of human beings themselves. The theoretical possibilities with regard to accelerating particles by electromagnetic means (i.e. within the scope of the Maxwell equations which have been known since the 19th century), are nowhere near being exhausted, and technology surprises us almost daily with innovations which in turn allow us to broach new trains of thought. Although many of the ideas in this field which appeared over the last decades were not successful, it is possible, in principle, that there are yet more fundamental breakthroughs to be made. They could allow us to advance to energies unimaginable today."