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A Bright New Day for Synchrotron Sources

NSF Award:

IMR: Phase Ib Energy Recovery Linac (ERL) Technology R&D  (Cornell University)

Operation of the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS)  (Cornell University)

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Synchrotron X-ray sources have become essential tools for the sciences, medicine and engineering. To remain at the forefront of advances in these fields, U.S. researchers need higher-intensity, coherent sources of short wavelength X-rays. 

Novel components for particle acceleration, developed by Cornell University scientists, are making a new source of coherent X-rays possible. This source will produce the unique, continuous, high-intensity beams needed to capture ultrafast chemical and physical phenomena and to probe materials with atomic resolution. When switched on, the beams act like a strobe light, slowing down motion to discrete moments.

Existing, continuous synchrotron X-ray sources rely on storage ring technology. Cornell has designed, built and tested the superconducting technologies needed to create a first-of-its-kind X-ray source called an Energy Recovery Linac. Such sources will exceed the brilliance of all storage rings by creating ultra-small electron bunches, accelerating them in superconducting cavities, and then circulating them only once through a series of magnets called undulators. The result: Ultra-bright, ultra-short pulses of very short wavelength X-rays.

The Cornell team has achieved the required core characteristics and efficiency of the superconducting radio frequency cavities. They have also invented the undulators. An important part of this project is to use the accelerator research and development to train students to build and operate accelerator sources for X-ray production, high-energy physics, and medical and industrial needs.


  • model used to create prototype of the main linac seven-cell cavity
Model used to create the main Linac seven-cell cavity.
Ernest Fontes, Cornell University

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