Challenges with SwissFEL

Three dominant trends in today's science and technology are smaller, faster and more complex. Nanotechnology is the name of the field concerned with these trends and it entails the measurement and manipulation of matter on the molecular scale. The relevant time scale for dynamic processes is the so called "ultrafast" domain, defined by the time it takes for an atom to accomplish one vibration cycle in a chemical bond. Complexity, which may manifest itself as chemical diversity, lack of crystalline order and/or non-equilibrium states, holds the promise of advanced materials with enhanced functionality. Some approaches to study materials involve probing with neutrons or muons. However, the predominant tool for investigating matter is light. The SwissFEL X-ray laser will be a unique light source which will expand the frontiers of knowledge, at the nanoscale, of ultrafast phenomena and in complex materials. In close consultation with experts representing a wide range of scientific research, a selection was made of particularly relevant applications for the SwissFEL.

As detailed in the SwissFEL Scientific Case (see link in left column), these applications emphasize investigations of the ultrafast dynamics of condensed matter and the damage-free imaging of nanostructure objects like biomolecules. Further possibilities include time-resolved investigation of plasmas and molecular gases, the study of sub-femto-second electron dynamics, the generation with intense X-ray pulses of new states of matter, and probing fundamental interactions. The SwissFEL project has been conceived to address pressing scientific challenges of importance to society, in which it will doubtlessly make ground-breaking contributions.