After a short description of the operation principle of linac driven free-electron lasers based on Self Amplified Spontaneous Emission (SASE) the performance of the world’s first X-ray FELs, FLASH at DESY in Hamburg and LCLS at SLAC in Stanford, will be presented. Research at FELs is currently focused on understanding the interaction of extremely intense X-ray pulses with matter. Examples of early science include studies of high field physics in atoms, photo-dissociation of molecules and photo-ionization of clusters, as well as investigation of damage issues and materials in extreme conditions. First successful steps towards single particle imaging with atomic resolution have been performed. For an overview see .
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