Free-electron lasers represent a fundamentally new class of lasers which are of intense interest at the present time as sources of tunable high-powsr laser radiation at wavelengths from the millimeter region to the far UV. Because of the simplicity of the laser medium (electrons and magnetic fields in vacuum), theoretical progress has been rapid. On the other hand, the difficulty and expense of mounting experiments on high-energy accelerators have served to limit experimental progress. However. about a dozen experiments are now under construction or in progress around the world, and a great deal of data should be obtained in the next few years. The principal thrust of the theoretical and experimental research is improved laser efficiency, but questions of optical beam quality have recently become important.

© 1981 Optical Society of America

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