Postgraduate research opportunities Future Free Electron Laser light sources


Key facts

  • Opens: Monday 6 April 2020
  • Number of places: 1
  • Duration: 42 months


Free-Electron Lasers (FELs) use electron beams produced by particle accelerators to generate intense electromagnetic radiation from microwaves into the hard X-ray, which is of particular interest to a wide range of users. This project will look at developing new types of FEL output further enhancing their applications.
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  • PhD funding source required
  • BSc Hons (Upper 2nd) degree or higher qualification in physics or physics-related subject required
THE Awards 2019: UK University of the Year Winner
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Project Details

This field is for further information about the research opportunity/project and is an opportunity to expand on the Project Summary field.

Free-Electron Lasers (FEL) use high energy electron beams produced by particle accelerators to generate intense electromagnetic within a long series of alternating dipole magnets called an undulator. The wavelength output from these sources ranges from mm-waves into the hard X-ray [1].  Due to a lack of alternative sources, FELs operating in the X-ray (XFEL) are of particular interest and are now generating significant international interest. Examples of the first of these sources include the LCLS at SLAC in California [2], SACLA at Spring-8 in Japan [3] and European XFEL in Hamburg, Germany [4].

The spatial and temporal resolution available from the high brightness ultra-violet to x-ray pulses generated by these XFELs, is making feasible the observation and ultimately the potential to control ultra-fast, optionally non-linear processes in all forms of matter. With the ability to probe correlated electronic processes within atoms at short timescales, to measure how electrons and nuclei re-organise themselves, either individually within atoms due to external stimulus, during molecular bond making and breaking, or while undergoing subtle catalytic or biological processes, we can begin to unravel how all matter functions at this fundamental level.

The supervisor of this project Dr Brian McNeil, has an extensive publication record in FEL theory and has developed many internationally recognised contributions to the field.  Dr McNeil works closely with the UK's Accelerator Science and Technology Centre. In the UK he is closely involved with the CLARA facility based at Daresbury near Warrington [5].

Dr Brian McNeil

This project will involve using the coupled Maxwell and Lorentz force that describe the FEL process to investigate new and important improvements to FEL operation. Examples of previous research by the Supervisor’s group include the generation of ultra-short pulses [6], greatly improved temporal coherence [7], multi-colour operation [8] and use of ‘beam-by-design’ [9]. To facilitate the study of such systems a unique computer code has been developed [10]. This code will be used in the further development of new and improved methods of FEL operation. For example, multi-colour and broad bandwidth operation, and investigations of how FELs can be driven by plasma-accelerators. It is expected that such developments may be able to be tested at the proposed CLARA facility [3] which is being developed for this purpose. New opportunities also exist in describing the FEL quantum-mechanically which may allow investigation of the interaction in to the gamma-ray region of the spectrum – an exciting prospect not yet achieved.


[1] McNeil & Thompson, Nature Photonics, 4, 814, 2010





[6] Dunning, McNeil & Thompson, PRL 110, 104801 (2013)

[7] McNeil, Thompson & Dunning, PRL 110, 134802 (2013)

[8] Campbell, McNeil & Reiche, New J. Phys. 16, 103019 (2014)

[9] Henderson, Campbell & McNeil, New J. Phys. 17, 083017 (2015)

[10] Campbell & McNeil, Phys. Plasmas 19, 093119 (2012)

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Dr Brian McNeil


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Please email Dr Brian McNeil, if you would like to apply for this opportunity.

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+44 (0)142 548 4727