Montreal Researchers on Track to 3 Petawatt Laser Pulses

Canadian researchers at the Advanced Laser Light Source (ALLS) facility at INRS, generated 300 terawatt laser pulses (3 joules for a 10-femtosecond pulse). They plan to repeat the experiment with an energy of 3 petawatts (3000 trillion Watts – 13 joules over 5 femtoseconds).

ALLS/LSF (Advanced Laser Light Source/ Laboratoire de Sources Femtosecondes) is a unique infrastructure of international caliber located at the Varennes campus of INRS-EMT (20 minutes south-east of Montreal).

Many research groups are amplifying the energy of the laser to increase its power, but this approach is expensive and requires beams and optics that are very large, more than a meter in size.

A team from Canada, Russia and France have chosen another direction to achieve an intensity of around 100 billion trillion Watts per square centimeter. Lasers that intense will be able to break the vacuum and generate particles. Rather than increasing the energy of the laser, they decrease the pulse duration to only a few femtoseconds. This would keep the system within a reasonable size and keep operating costs down.

By extending the concept of thin-film compression to a thin plate, nonlinear post-compression from 24 fs to 13 fs of sub-petawatt laser pulses is demonstrated experimentally using a 1 mm-thick silica plate and chirped mirrors with a total anomalous dispersion of −50 fs2. The measurements were implemented with a specially designed dispersionless vacuum frequency-resolved optical gating, which is based on second harmonic generation of tested pulses in a 10 μm β-barium borate crystal glued on a 1 mm fused silica substrate. The used compression scheme is implemented in a geometry compatible with high power on-target experiment realization.

Canada’s Advanced Laser Light Source (ALLS) is a commercial Ti:sapphire PULSAR system built by Amplitude Technologies operating at 200 TW (5 J, 20 fs, 5–10 Hz PULSAR laser). In 2019, the system was been upgraded to deliver 500 TW (10 J, 20 fs).

SOURCES – Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS), Applied Physics Letters
Written by Brian Wang,

6 thoughts on “Montreal Researchers on Track to 3 Petawatt Laser Pulses”

  1. From

    According to the theory of quantum electrodynamics (QED), which describes how electromagnetic fields interact with matter, the vacuum is not as empty as classical physics would have us believe. Over extremely short time scales, pairs of electrons and positrons, their antimatter counterparts, flicker into existence, born of quantum mechanical uncertainty. Because of their mutual attraction, they annihilate each another almost as soon as they form.

    But a very intense laser could, in principle, separate the particles before they collide. Like any electromagnetic wave, a laser beam contains an electric field that whips back and forth. As the beam’s intensity rises, so, too, does the strength of its electric field. At intensities around 1024 W/cm2, the field would be strong enough to start to break the mutual attraction between some of the electron-positron pairs, says Alexander Sergeev, former director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’s (RAS’s) Institute of Applied Physics (IAP) in Nizhny Novgorod and now president of RAS. The laser field would then shake the particles, causing them to emit electromagnetic waves—in this case, gamma rays. The gamma rays would, in turn, generate new electron-positron pairs, and so on, resulting in an avalanche of particles and radiation that could be detected. “

  2. Impovements in laser technology are very good. In my opinion lasers are the fastest way to get commercial fusion reactors.

  3. Ultrafast lasers are interesting to play with. I have experience with an older Coherent Mira, which is a tunable 700-1000 nm, 65 fs system. It’s now considered outdated (a laser is a laser) and is outperformed by newer commercial systems (slightly).

  4. I broke my vacuum at home.

    I was able to patch it with ducktape but I think I need to fibreglass the casing.

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