The world's “most intense” laser system went online this week in the Czech village of Dolní Břežany outside of Prague. Known as the L3-HAPLS, the laser intensity of the system is more than six orders of magnitude higher than previous state-of-the-art models.
The L3-HAPLS, short for High-Repetition-Rate Advanced Petawatt Laser System, will enable ground-breaking research in the fields of physics and material science, biomedical research and laboratory astrophysics.
It’s all part of the Extreme Light Infrastructure, or ELI, project, to which hundreds of scientists around the world have contributed. Apart from the ELI Beamlines laser research centre in Dolní Břežany, there are complementary facilities in Hungary and Romania, where scientists will investigate light-matter interactions at the highest intensities and shortest timescales possible.
Here in the Czech Republic, ELI Beamlines is managed by the Institute of Physics of the Academy of Sciences. The range of potential applications using the new technology is exceptional, says Bedřich Rus, from the Academy’s Department of Laser Systems.
“So, how can it be used? It can be used for a variety of research and development projects, from basic research to various applications. For example, with the laser, applied research can be used in new ways to treat cancerous tumours through medical imaging. It can lead to a revolution in this area. … There are many laser centres in Europe, the best known is in Great Britain, and there are others in France and Germany. But the ELI centre opening today – thanks to this technology that will be inaugurated – we hope will have an exceptional place in the world.”
The ELI centres main mission is to become a truly multidisciplinary, user-oriented infrastructure to perform revolutionary scientific experiments and applications, combining advanced synchronized ultra-intense short pulse lasers and secondary sources of particles and x-rays.
The system itself was developed in the United States at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The ELI Beamlines facility in the Czech Republic will provide scientists research opportunities on a large portfolio of world-class secondary sources, driven by ultra-intense lasers.
These secondary sources – partially based on entirely new concepts – will produce pulses of radiation and particles of highest intensity and beam quality, including electromagnetic radiation over a broad spectral range and charged particles such as electrons, protons and ions.
Of particular importance to a country such as the Czech Republic, which has a high degree of nuclear power in its energy mix, is how the new intense laser system can further understanding of ageing nuclear reactor materials through to the development of new methods of nuclear waste processing.