The rapid advance of terahertz technologies in terms of radiation generators, systems, and scientific or industrial applications has put a particular focus on compact sources with challenging performances in terms of generated power (peak and/or average), radiation time structure, and frequency band tunability. Free electron laser (FEL)-based sources are probably the best candidates to express such a versatility; there are a number of schemes that have been investigated over the years to generate coherent radiation from free electrons in the mm-wave and terahertz regions of the spectrum, covering a wide frequency range from approximately 100 GHz to 10 THz. This paper proposes novel schemes for exploring the limits in the performance of radio frequency-driven free-electron devices in terms of ultrashort pulse duration, wide bandwidth operation, and energy recovery for near continuous wave (CW) operation. The aim of the present work is to demonstrate the feasibility of an FEL achieving performance comparable to a conventional photoconductive THz source, which is commonly used for time-domain spectroscopy (TDS), in terms of bandwidth and pulse duration. We will also demonstrate that a THz FEL could be very powerful and flexible in terms of tailoring its spectral features.
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