This is a fascinating and important advancement in the physics of light sources. It seems that it has been shown experimentally how one can get the short, intense light pulses that one gets from a FEL source, and combine it with the repetition that one gets from a synchrotron light source.
Now a Sino-German team has shown that a pattern of pulses can be generated in a synchrotron radiation source that combines the advantages of both systems. The synchrotron source delivers short, intense microbunches of electrons that produce radiation pulses having a laser-like character (as with FELs), but which can also follow each other closely in sequence (as with synchrotron light sources).
Another review of this work, from Nature where it was published, can be found here.
While this is an important step, it really is a proof-of-principle experiment, and it requires a bit more experimental work to show that this can be viable.
Although this paper represents a crucial step towards generating high-power, small-bandwidth light pulses in a particle accelerator, steady-state microbunching has not yet been demonstrated. Deng et al. have shown that, after one turn in the synchrotron, the microbunched beam can produce coherent radiation. The next challenge is to prove that this scheme can achieve such a feat over many turns. This will be difficult to accomplish experimentally for at least three reasons.
But if this can be demonstrated, a lot of things that are done at a FEL can be performed even more at an "ordinary" synchrotron light source, a facility that is a lot more plentiful.
An important point that I want to point out here is that, these are all "tools" that allow us to study things. Without these tools, we have no ability to experimentally detect, see, or measure things. It enables us to do things that we could not do before. So the advancement in science, technology, medicine, etc, depend on not only having these tools, but also the continual improvement of these tools. Advancement in science requires all of these things to occur to able to explore more difficult and complex ideas and scenarios.
This advancement in accelerator-based light source has nothing to do with high-energy physics. In fact, if you look at the type of applications that are being mentioned, there's nothing about particle physics at all!
.....on an accelerator that could extend the capabilities of these machines even further, potentially yielding applications in a next-generation chip-etching technology called extreme-ultraviolet lithography and an advanced imaging method known as angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy.
So once again, this is my continuing attempt at trying to make people aware that "accelerators" do not automatically mean "particle collider" or "high energy physics". In fact, the majority of particle accelerators in this world are not involved in high energy physics experiments.