Most proposed linac-based light sources, such as single-pass free-electron lasers and energy-recovery-linacs, require very high-brightness electron beams in order to achieve their design performance. These beam requirements must be achieved not on an occasional basis, but rather must be met by every bunch produced by the source over extended periods of time. It is widely assumed that the beam source will be a photocathode electron gun; the selection of accelerator technique (e.g., dc or rf) for the gun is more dependent on the application.
The current state of the art of electron beam production is adequate but not ideal for the first generation of linac-based light sources, such as the Linac Coherent Light Source [ ] (LCLS) x-ray free-electron laser (X-FEL). For the next generation of linac-based light sources, an order of magnitude reduction in the transverse electron beam emittance is required to significantly reduce the cost of the facility. This is beyond the present state of the art, given the other beam properties that must be maintained. The requirements for current and future linac-based light source beam sources are presented here, along with a review of the present state of the art. A discussion of potential paths towards meeting future needs is presented at the conclusion.