History of Free-Electron Lasers in the UK
28 Feb 2023



Elaine Seddon, Cockcroft Institute / ASTeC and ex-Associate Director of SRD, and Mike Poole, ex-ASTeC director, have published an article reviewing the history of free-electron laser projects in the UK.


​Elaine A. Seddon and Michael W. Poole


​The article, published in Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science, covers close to 45 years of FEL activity in the UK from the mid-1970s until 2022. It provides technical details of specific projects, together with personal insights by the people who worked on them.

The review highlights the breadth of ideas generated over the years and reveals the evolution in FEL activities, from the early imperative to reproduce and understand first results at long wavelength to the development of ever-higher quality FEL output at very short wavelengths.

The article also talks about the longer-term and broader benefits of the early projects.  One aspect of this is the many years of UK experience in the design, operation and use of FEL facilities (in the UK and abroad) which reveal the wider value (financial and intellectual) of much of the work that has been undertaken and which is often not apparent. Continuous development of the UK technological base in this area has led to innovative contributions on a global scale and considerable financial return.

The authors have made extensive use of archive material, published papers and, where at all possible, the personal recollections of those involved.

When considered altogether, the direct UK free-electron laser work reported, its longer-term and broader benefits, the associated activities related to the development of novel ideas for FEL exploitation and the building of skilled user communities comprise a huge body of work of which the UK can justly be very proud.

The open access article is available to read and download at: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsnr.2022.0038

Elaine A. Seddon and Michael W. Poole, “The Origins and Development of Free-Electron Lasers in the UK”, Notes and Records: the Royal Society Journal of the History of Science (8 February 2023)


Contact: Diakun, Joseph (STFC,DL,AST)