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What Is an Energy Recovery Linac (ERL)?

An Energy Recovery Linac (ERL) x-ray source is a candidate next-generation x-ray source technology now under active development. ERLs are made possible by recent advances in superconducting linear accelerators and in high-brightness electron sources. ERLs have the potential to generate synchrotron radiation with brightness about 1000 times greater than that of today's storage rings, resulting in highly coherent x-radiation. ERL's are particularly well suited for the production of very fast x-ray pulses to examine the dynamics of materials on extremely rapid time scales and for intense x-ray nanoprobe beams to study nanoscopic matter. While both ERLs and XFELS will be able to produce very fast x-ray pulses, the two sources are quite distinct in the timing of these pulses: ERLs are being designed to produce pulses times up to a billion times a second whereas XFELs produce bigger pulses but at a far lower rate per second.


Energy Recovery Linac graphic

Image 1. Electrons are released from the injector at the lower left, and are accelerated in a long linear superconducting accelerator (main linac). After emerging from this linac, the electrons pass through undulators that wiggle the electron beam and produce the x-rays in the usual way. Electrons are continuously injected, make one trip around the ring, and return to the main linac where their energy is recovered. The spent beam is directed to the dump. (Courtesy: Cornell University)