Europe Establishes Pan-Continental Laser Consortium

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The European Commission has officially established the Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI) as a European Research Infrastructure Consortium, or ERIC. The ERIC is a legal entity formed by an EU regulation specifically for scientific infrastructures. The establishment of the ELI ERIC allows the infrastructure’s facilities in the Czech Republic and Hungary to operate together as one organization.

The ELI ERIC will enable scientists to access state-of-the-art lasers. A Member country’s scientists can help shape the strategy, participate in mission-based research, and provide access for its graduate students and industry.

The Czech Republic and Hungary applied to be host countries in May 2020. The ELI facilities make up the largest multisite laser facility in the world, ELI said in a press release. 

Additional founding members are Italy and Lithuania. Germany and Bulgaria are founding Observers, with an aim to join the ELI ERIC in the future.

“The decision comes at an important time since the transition to operations is already happening and the interest from scientists is intense,” said Allen Weeks, director general of the ELI Delivery Consortium.

The ELI ERIC facilities are ELI-Beamlines in Dolní Brežany in the Czech Republic, and the ELI-ALPS facility in Szeged, Hungary. They were built at a cost of €300 million each over the last six years, using European structural funds.

A third ELI facility, ELI-NP, is being built near Bucharest, Romania. The facility, focused on the field of nuclear photonics, is expected to join the other two labs in the newly formed organization.

The SYLOS system at ELI-ALPS. Courtesy of EKSPLA.

The SYLOS system at ELI-ALPS. Courtesy of EKSPLA.

The ELI facilities includes some of the most powerful and advanced lasers in the world, including pulses up to 10 petawatts, ultrafast lasers approaching attoseconds, and a combination high-average power laser firing more than 1 petawatt up to 10 times per second.

Scientists coming to ELI will be able to perform multidisciplinary studies for fundamental and applied research. Areas of potential application for work conducted at the facilities will include oncology treatment, medical and biomedical imaging to support personalized medicine, and the local production of medical isotopes. Advanced industrial applications include nondestructive ways to inspect critical components and fast electronics. In energy and sustainable environmental practices, ELI will enable understanding of aging nuclear materials and new methods of nuclear waste processing. Improved understanding of mechanisms for laser driven fusion could be a source of unlimited energy. Study of the fundamental processes for creating matter will open new understanding about the origins of stars and matter.

“Each of these facilities was built to specialize in areas of science and laser technology to complement the other facilities,” said Gábor Szabó, managing director at ELI-ALPS. “Any one of them would, by itself, be among the world’s most advanced.”

The integration of the ELI facilities is planned to take place over a two- to three-year initial operations phase. During that time, technical and scientific procedures in the different facilities will be harmonized. The integration will be facilitated by a €20 million grant from the European Union under the IMPULSE Horizon 2020 program.

Published: May 2021
ELIELI BeamlinesERICEuropean Research Infrastructure ConsortiumEuropean Union Horizon 2020European UnionEUEU CommissionBusinessExtreme Light Infrastructureextreme light infrastructure - nuclear physicsCzech RepublicHungaryRomaniaELI-ALPSELI-BeamlinesEuropelight speed

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