U.S. Particle Accelerator School

The Physics of Free Electron Lasers course

Sponsoring University:

University of New Mexico


The Physics of Free Electron Lasers


Dinh Nguyen and Quinn R. Marksteiner, Los Alamos National Lab

Purpose and Audience

This introductory course explores the physics of high-brightness radiation generated by relativistic electrons in free electron lasers (FEL) based on various configurations including low-gain oscillators, high-gain self-amplified spontaneous emission, seeded amplifiers, regenerative amplifiers, high-gain harmonic generation, and echo-enhanced harmonic generation.

Upper division undergraduate courses in classical mechanics and in electromagnetism (at the level of "Introduction to Electrodynamics" by David J. Griffiths).

It is the responsibility of the student to ensure that he or she meets the course prerequisites or has equivalent experience.

The purpose of this course is to introduce students, scientists and technologists to the physics of free‑electron lasers (FEL) driven by radio-frequency linear accelerators. Upon completion of this course, the students are expected to understand the basic concepts of how an FEL works. These basic concepts include (but not limited to) bunched beam radiation, energy and density modulations, gain, FEL saturation and synchrotron oscillations. They will be able to analyze the various FEL architectures (oscillator, self-amplified spontaneous emission, seeded amplifiers, regenerative amplifier, high-gain harmonic generation) in terms of electron beam requirements and FEL performance. They will also learn the quasi-coherent nature of the radiation produced by today’s SASE FEL and the contemporary techniques to improve the radiation coherence.

Instructional Method

The course consists of lectures in both morning (theory and experiments) and afternoon sessions (simulations). Some of the afternoon sessions involve FEL simulation work. Optional evening sessions can be held to explain homework assignments.

Course Content Reading Requirements

(to be provided by USPAS) “Free-Electron Lasers in the Ultraviolet and X-Ray Regime” 2nd edition (Springer 2014) by Peter Schmüser, Martin Dohlus and Jörg Rossbach. Instructors will also provide lecture notes.

Credit Requirements

Students will be evaluated based on performance as follows: final exam (40% of final grade), homework assignments (30%) and computer class (30%).

IU/USPAS course number P671