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FERMI is the new seeded free electron laser (FEL) facility in operation next to the third-generation synchrotron radiation facility Elettra. Unique among the only five FEL sources currently operating in the ultraviolet and soft x-ray range worldwide, FERMI has been developed to provide fully coherent ultrashort (10-100 femtosecond) pulses with a peak brightness ten billion times higher than that made available by third-generation light sources. FERMI is opening unique opportunities for exploring the structure and transient states of condensed matter, soft matter and low-density matter using a variety of diffraction, scattering and spectroscopy techniques.