Smith–Purcell effect

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The Smith–Purcell effect was the precursor of the free electron laser (FEL). It was studied by Steve Smith, a graduate student under the guidance of Edward Purcell. In their experiment, they sent an energetic beam of electrons very closely parallel to the surface of a ruled optical diffraction grating, and thereby generated visible light. Smith showed there was negligible effect on the trajectory of the inducing electrons. Essentially, this is a form of Cherenkov radiation where the phase velocity of the light has been altered by the periodic grating.


  • S. J. Smith and E. M. Purcell, Visible Light from Localized Surface Charges Moving across a Grating, Phys Rev 92, 1069 (1953), 10.1103/PhysRev.92.1069 [1]