The paradox of a free-electron laser without the laser

A brand new method of manufacturing coherent mild within the ultra-violet spectral area, which factors the best way to growing good table-top x-ray sources, has been produced in analysis led on the College of Strathclyde.

The scientists have developed a kind of ultra-short wavelength coherent mild supply that doesn’t require laser motion to provide coherence. Widespread electron-beam based mostly mild sources, referred to as fourth-generation mild sources, are based mostly on the free-electron laser (FEL), which makes use of an undulator to transform electron beam vitality into X-rays.

Coherent mild sources are highly effective instruments that allow analysis in lots of areas of medication, biology, materials sciences, chemistry and physics.

This new method of manufacturing coherent radiation might revolutionise mild sources, as it will make them extremely compact, basically table-top measurement, and able to producing ultra-short length pulses of sunshine, a lot shorter than might be produced simply by some other means.

Making ultraviolet and X-ray coherent mild sources extra extensively out there would rework the best way science is completed; a college might have one of many units in a single room, on a desk high, for an affordable value.

The group is now planning a proof-of-principle experiment within the ultraviolet spectral vary to exhibit this new method of manufacturing coherent mild. If profitable, it ought to dramatically speed up the event of even shorter wavelength coherent sources based mostly on the identical precept. The Strathclyde group has arrange a facility to analyze these kinds of sources: the Scottish Centre for the Software of Plasma-based Accelerators (SCAPA), which hosts one of many highest energy lasers within the UK.


The brand new analysis has been revealed in Scientific Studies, one of many Nature household of journals.

Professor Dino Jaroszynski, of Strathclyde’s Division of Physics, led the analysis. He stated: “This work considerably advances the state-of-the-art of synchrotron sources by proposing a brand new methodology of manufacturing short-wavelength coherent radiation, utilizing a brief undulator and attosecond length electron bunches.

“That is extra compact and fewer demanding on the electron beam high quality than free-electron lasers and will present a paradigm shift in mild sources, which might stimulate a brand new course of analysis. It proposes to make use of bunch compression — as in chirped pulse amplification lasers — throughout the undulator to considerably improve the radiation brightness.

“The brand new methodology introduced could be of large curiosity to a various group growing and utilizing mild sources.”

In FELs, as in all lasers, the depth of sunshine is amplified by a suggestions mechanism that locks the phases of particular person radiators, which on this case are “free” electrons. Within the FEL, that is achieved by passing a excessive vitality electron beam by way of the undulator, which is an array of alternating polarity magnets.


Gentle emitted from the electrons as they wiggle by way of the undulator creates a drive known as the ponderomotive drive that bunches the electrons — some are slowed down, some are sped up, which causes bunching, much like site visitors on a motorway periodically slowing and rushing up.

Electrons passing by way of the undulator radiate incoherent mild if they’re uniformly distributed — for each electron that emits mild, there may be one other electron that partially cancels out the sunshine as a result of they radiate out of section. An analogy of this partial cancelling out is rain on the ocean: it produces many small ripples that partially cancel one another out, successfully quelling the waves — decreasing their amplitude. In distinction, regular or pulsating wind will trigger the waves to amplify by way of the mutual interplay of the wind with the ocean.

Within the FEL, electron bunching causes amplification of the sunshine and the rise in its coherence, which normally takes a very long time — thus very lengthy undulators are required. In an X-ray FEL, the undulators might be greater than 100 metres lengthy. The accelerators driving these X-ray FELs are kilometres lengthy, which makes these units very costly and a number of the largest devices on the earth.

Nevertheless, utilizing a free-electron laser to provide coherent radiation isn’t the one method; a “pre-bunched” beam or ultra-short electron bunch will also be used to attain precisely the identical coherence in a really quick undulator that’s lower than a metre in size. So long as the electron bunch is shorter than the wavelength of the sunshine produced by the undulator, it is going to mechanically produce coherent mild — all the sunshine waves will add up or intervene constructively, which results in very good mild with precisely the identical properties of sunshine from a laser.

The researchers have demonstrated theoretically that this may be achieved utilizing a laser-plasma wakefield accelerator, which produces electron bunches that may have a size of some tens of nanometres. They present that if these ultra-short bunches of excessive vitality electrons cross by way of a brief undulator, they’ll produce as might photons as a really costly FEL can produce. Furthermore, they’ve additionally proven that by producing an electron bunch that has an vitality “chirp,” they’ll ballistically compress the bunch to a really quick length contained in the undulator, which offers a singular method of going to even shorter electron bunches and due to this fact produce even shorter wavelength mild.