A group of researchers at Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in Menlo Park, Calif., are looking forward to seeing the world in a new light with the Linac Coherent Light Source. The x-ray free-electron laser is a step closer to reality with the approval of funding from the government.In October, the laser project passed the US Department of Energy's Critical Decision 1 process, and Con-gress has allocated $6 million in its 2003 budget for engineering and design activities. If the project continues as planned, the $220 million facility will be in full operation by September 2008.Better peak brightnessThe Linac Coherent Light Source will inject electrons from a 1-km stretch of the center's linear accelerator into a 122-m free-electron laser undulator, yielding 230-fs pulses of 0.15- to 1.5-nm radiation. The peak brightness of the x-ray pulses will be 10 orders of magnitude greater than is currently available from synchrotron sources.The x-ray facility will help researchers to better understand fast chemical and physical processes, and the interaction of its intense beam with matter also should enable the creation of previously unobserved plasmas. The brightness of the source promises to enable crystal-lographic studies without a crystal lattice.The center's project partners include Argonne and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories and the University of California, Los Angeles. Collaborators include Los Alamos and Brookhaven national laboratories.