BERLIN — Scientists in Germany say the world’s largest X-ray laser is now in operation and will help them capture images of structures and processes at an atomic level.

The DESY research center near Hamburg said the laser that went online Friday flashes 27,000 pulses per second, resulting in a luminance a billion times higher than the best conventional X-ray sources.

Scientists hope the European XFEL project will open up new areas of research.

DESY says it will enable researchers “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.”

Institutions from Germany, France, Italy, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and other countries are involved in the project.

Researchers are preparing their first experiments for mid-September.

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