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Omega Laser - Petawatt Power

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ROCHESTER, N.Y., May 20, 2008 – The Omega EP has quadrillion watts of power that can focus on a target just a millimeter across. Using four ultra-high intensity laser beams, the Omega EP’s petawatt power could open the door to a new concept that may be able to dramatically increase the energy derived from fusion experiments and provide new inroads towards cleaner fusion power. It’s called “fast ignition” and it could potentially lead to the highest energy densities ever achieved in a laboratory.

The University of Rochester’s original Omega laser fires multi-trillion watt bursts of energy (more powerful than the entire electrical generating capacity of the United States) making it among the three most powerful lasers in the world. However, the Omega will become approximately 50 times more powerful with the inclusion of the Omega EP.

Target Chamber of the Omega Laser. Photos courtesy of the University of Rochester.

Such incredible intensities are necessary because creating electricity from fusion means heating the target fuel to a high temperature and confining it long enough so that more energy is released than is supplied to sustain the reaction. To release energy at a level required for electricity production, the fusion fuel must be heated to about 100 million degrees, more than six times hotter than the interior of the Sun.

The Omega EP, which was created in Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE), is a significant step in the effort toward attaining sustainable fusion, the ultimate source of clean energy. In fact, one gallon of seawater at a fusion power plant would provide the equivalent energy of 300 gallons of gasoline, while fuel from 50 cups of water would contain the energy equivalent to two tons of coal. A fusion power plant would be considerably less environmentally harmful than nuclear power plants currently are. And besides, there would be no danger of a runaway reaction or core meltdown in a fusion power plant.

LLE scientist inside the Omega target chamber.

"I look forward to the profound scientific contributions the Omega EP extension will bring to the University and to the world," says University President, Joel Seligman. "It is a vital component of our nation's scientific capital and leadership, a key to strategic work on an independent energy future, and a vital part of the local economy, including $44 million in local expenditures just last year."

The LLE, first established in 1970, attracts external funding, primarily from the federal government, of more than $1.3 billion, including a five-year $352 million commitment last year from the Department of Energy. This support is thanks to strong backing from the Administration and the U.S. Congress. Thanks to the Energy and Water Development Act of 2006, the LLE was granted $72.6 million, $25 million of which was allocated to the new Omega EP facility. (See also: $72M Earmarked for Laser Energetics Lab)

"Over the years, the University of Rochester's Laboratory for Laser Energetics has consistently brought Upstate New York's high-tech sector to the forefront of energy innovation," says Schumer. "It is a vital national resource as well as an economic boon to Rochester and to the entire Finger Lakes region. I was proud to secure over $61 million to support their efforts last year and will continue to look for ways in which the federal government can further collaborate with this dynamic laboratory in the future."

Research scientists from around the world come to Rochester to use the Omega laser facilities. LLE has provided qualified researchers with a unique environment for experiments in inertial fusion and high-energy-density physics. And, because the Laboratory is located on a University campus rather than being a national laboratory, undergraduates and even area high school students are able to benefit from the Laboratory's resources.

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May 2008
1. The combination of the effects of two or more stimuli in any given sense to form a single sensation. With respect to vision, the perception of continuous illumination formed by the rapid successive presentation of light flashes at a specified rate. 2. The transition of matter from solid to liquid form. 3. With respect to atomic or nuclear fusion, the combination of atomic nuclei, under extreme heat, to form a heavier nucleus.
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
energyEnergy and Water Development ActFast IgnitionfusionJoel SeligmanLaboratory for Laser EnergeticsLLENews & FeaturesOmega EPOmega LaserpetawattphotonicsUniversity of Rochesterlasers

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