Superzoom facility

Focusing the X-rays on the tiniest spot leads to images that are hundreds of times more detailed than anything seen before. This allows experiments to be carried out on all length and time scales that are relevant to biological, chemical and physical processes.

DESY plans to expand its X-ray source PETRA III to become the ultimate 3D X-ray microscope PETRA IV. The new facility wil offer possibilities for analyses that are unparalleled anywhere in the world, zooming deep inside all kinds of materials. PETRA IV will provide improved techniques for studying complex processes in nature and technology in real time and under realistic operating conditions.

Visual representation of the bundled X-ray beam of PETRA IV, which is juxtaposed with three samples in a size ratio ranging from millimetres to micrometres to nanometres. The arrangement of the samples makes it clear that the same sample can be X-rayed at different levels at the same time.
PETRA IV’s extremely focused X-rays will shine through objects in their natural setting. This will allow their spatial structure to be mapped from the macroscopic level down to the nanocosmos of atoms. Image: DESY, Science Communication Lab

For the first time, researchers will then be able to illuminate individual objects on the nanometre scale and record the structure, energetics and function of molecular units in materials and cells under realistic conditions. PETRA IV can thus contribute to the development of materials and technologies of the future. This promises new perspectives for basic research and high technology.

“PETRA IV will revolutionise X-ray imaging. For the first time, natural phenomena in the nanocosmos can be recorded live and non-destructively.”
Portrait of Helmut Dosch
Prof. Helmut Dosch Chairman of DESY’s Board of Directors

Enabling innovative technologies

  • Materials for sustainable batteries

  • High-efficiency catalysts for producing hydrogen

  • Tailor-made materials for quantum technologies

  • Development of new drugs

A milestone for the overall project

The extensive project is currently in the phase of technical planning, which will be completed with the publication of the “Technical Design Report” (TDR) by mid-2023. The TDR will contain the technical building plans for the accelerator, the X-ray beamlines and the surrounding infrastructure. In addition, it will outline the stages of construction and the order in which they are to be carried out. 

More about the beamlines

More about the accelerator

Image and video: DESY, Science Communication Lab
“PETRA IV will be the world’s best fourth-generation synchrotron radiation source.”
Portrait of Harald Reichert
Harald Reichert PETRA IV project leader

In Grenoble, France, a similar radiation source is already in operation at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF). Its conversion to a fourth-generation X-ray light source was significantly helped by physicist Harald Reichert, the former research director at ESRF. At DESY, Harald Reichert has taken on the task of a PETRA IV project leader.

View into the working area of a beamline: Surrounded by man-sized equipment made of metallic materials, a man prepares a sample to carry out an experiment at PETRA III.

Partner for research and industry

Users from science and industry can use PETRA VI for their research and development. A special access will be set up that is tailored to the needs of users from industry and business.

Research campus of the future

DESY’s research infrastructure already offers unique opportunities for investigation and experimentation to achieve advances in innovation, technology and medicine. Numerous university institutes and research facilities have settled on the campus. In addition, further new facilities, centres and research buildings are to be built around the DESY campus by 2040.

PETRA IV will be a central large-scale research facility in the future Science City Hamburg Bahrenfeld.



Accelerating careers

Some 2900 DESY employees work at DESY in a wide variety of occupations. Even now, DESY offers a large number of challenging scientific and non-scientific positions with very good career opportunities in connection with implementing the large-scale PETRA IV project. Please feel free to apply online.

Description of campus life at DESY
On the DESY campus in Hamburg. Image: DESY
Frequently asked questions


Frequently asked questions

Portrait of Heidrun Hillen
Press and Media / Communication

Heidrun Hillen

I am happy to answer your questions about PETRA IV.

Further research topics