In 2016, the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) will be putting its newest large-scale facility into operation: SwissFEL, the X-ray laser. On its website, the institute, which is insisting on top-quality Swiss engineering and strict environmental protection and sustainability standards throughout the construction of the laboratory, emphasizes that the research conducted at SwissFEL will deepen our understanding of nature and lead to practical applications such as new medicines, more efficient processes in the chemical industry, new materials in electronics, and alternative methods of producing energy.

R&M continues to deliver high-quality services.

Roger Müller, Alpiq InTec Ost AG

Companies belonging to the Alpiq Group and selected partners are constructing the SwissFEL laboratory in Würenlingen, Aargau in the north of Switzerland. The Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), the largest research center for natural sciences and engineering in Switzerland, is overseeing the project. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime construction project,” says installer Roger Müller from Alpiq InTec Ost AG, who is impressed by the scale of this undertaking.

The underground building must be exceptionally level to ensure that the X-ray beams can be accelerated properly and hit their target with precision every time. The maximum tolerance for the beam channel, located in a 740-meterlong, two-story reinforced concrete tunnel, is just five millimeters. For normal buildings, this would be around one to two centimeters.

The entirety of the tunnel must be vibration-resistant and able to maintain a stable temperature, which must not deviate from the target temperature of 24° Celsius by any more than 0.1 degrees. “This requires significant engineering expertise,” says lead project manager Michael Labonte from Alpiq Infra AG.

Quality and versatility

The PSI also laid out extremely precise and demanding specifications for SwissFEL’s structured cabling systems. The institute requested modular expansion capabilities, long-term system warranties, and high-caliber services. It also expected responsibility for the project to be shared. “Versatility is key in every aspect of this project,” says Michael Labonte. “We have to be able to react rapidly to requests for changes. It is crucial to the project’s success that the suppliers are prepared to cooperate.”

From the very outset it was clear that R&M was the perfect partner for the building cabling. As the sole supplier, R&M fulfilled all of the specified requirements for a large number of components. The tried-and-tested R&Mfreenet cabling program was used as the basis for planning the data and communication network, as well as the cabling for special control and security systems.

From left to right: Ralph Tietz, IT & Telecoms Technician, Alpiq InTec Ost AG; Michael Labonte, Lead Project Manager, Alpiq Infra AG; Giovanni Orofino, Electrical Project Manager, enerpeak Salzmann AG; Daniel Gyger, R&M Switzerland; Roger Müller, IT & Telecoms Project Manager, Alpiq InTec Ost AG.

“Here, instead of building at great heights, we’re working with great lengths,” says Roger Müller, explaining one of the challenges for the copper cabling. More racks were needed than in conventional buildings in order to allow the links to be installed in 90-meter portions of the SwissFEL tunnel. “R&M provided excellent support at all times,” says Giovanni Orofino, the Electrical Project Manager from enerpeak Salzmann AG, in appreciation of the dedicated and seamless cooperation. Orofino particularly valued R&M’s rapid provision of expert information and its technical documentation. The scope of R&M’s services for this project extended right up to the measurements for the optical fiber installation. “We have noticed that quality is dropping across the market. However, R&M continues to deliver high-quality services,” summarizes Roger Müller.

* E-2000™ manufactured under license from Diamond SA, Losone.

A better understanding of nature and matter

SwissFEL, which belongs to the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), is a free electron laser (FEL). There are only two similar facilities in operation anywhere else in the world, with two more currently under construction. This facility will generate extremely short and intense flashes of laser-quality X-ray radiation that are from 1 to 60 femtoseconds in duration. This process will enable new insights into the inner workings of materials.

Researchers want to use this technology to study ultrafast processes, such as the creation of new molecules during chemical reactions. For example, they will be able to determine the structure of proteins that are essential to life, or discover the precise makeup of materials. The knowledge gained at SwissFEL could help scientists to develop new medicines and innovative materials, among other things.

The PSI conducts cutting-edge research in the areas of matter and material, humans and health, and energy and the environment. Their research helps to discover sustainable solutions to key societal, economic and scientific issues. In as early as 2001, the PSI took on a pioneering role in the development of modern X-ray sources with its Swiss Light Source (SLS).