Daresbury Laboratory


Future Light Sources

ASTeC has a tremendous pedigree in the field of accelerator-based light sources. We have played pivotal roles in the UK’s highly successful light source facilities, the second generation SRS and the third generation Diamond Light Source.

ASTeC continues to look to the future and has made major contributions to two design studies for potential fourth generation facilities, 4GLS and the UK New Light Source. Fourth generation facilities will produce coherent, short pulse radiation to enable time-resolved studies of atomic and molecular systems. The technology on which these facilities will be based is the free electron laser (FEL). To underpin these design studies, and so to develop the most advanced and innovative solutions possible for the UK, ASTeC has developed a number of scientific and technological enabling projects, many of which centre on the ALICE test accelerator.

For example, we have now established expertise in superconducting RF systems for the first time within the UK and we have also successfully constructed and operated the first photoinjector gun in the UK. In addition to these and other technological advances, which are essential for any future light source, we have established a team of FEL experts who have particular expertise in seeding and ultra-short pulse generation and we have world-renowned skills in the beam dynamics of energy recovery linacs as well as single pass light source facilities.

Following a capital injection by the UK government in 2011, ASTeC is further developing design concepts and technologies for a future UK light source through the construction of the Versatile Electron Linear Accelerator (VELA). This consists of a RF photoinjector gun, associated RF systems, a dedicated diagnostics section for 6D characterisation of the beam, and beam transport to two industrial user areas. Subsequently, ASTeC intends for it to be the first stage of the Compact Linear Accelerator for Research and Applications (CLARA). This will be a UV free-electron laser test stand, enabling ASTeC to establish novel methods of coherent, short pulse generation and beam generation. CLARA will prepare the UK to make significant advances in testing several seeding concepts as well as to meet technological challenges to pave the way for a full-scale UK FEL user facility.

ASTeC is also contributing to the design of SwissFEL, an X-ray Free-Electron Laser (FEL) facility to be built at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) near Zurich, Switzerland. It features two separate FELs, named Aramis and Athos, to cover the wavelength range 1-70 Angstroms. Under a formal memorandum of understanding between STFC and PSI, signed in November 2011, ASTeC is now contributing to the SwissFEL design in four different areas in which ASTeC scientists have specific expertise: the Collimation System, Hard X-Ray Self-Seeding, Afterburner for Aramis, and the Laser Heater Undulator.

Last updated: 17 August 2023

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