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University of Rochester Receives $18M for New Laser Facility

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ROCHESTER, N.Y., Sept. 26, 2023 — The University of Rochester has received nearly $18 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to design and prototype key technologies for EP-OPAL, a new facility dedicated to the study of ultrahigh-intensity laser-matter interactions. The facility could be built at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) upon completion of the design project, according to the university.

High-intensity lasers enable scientific work in fields ranging from plasma science to particle acceleration, laboratory astrophysics to laser-driven nuclear physics — work that has resulted in myriad scientific, medical, commercial, and industrial applications.
The National Science Foundation has provided funding for the University of Rochester and partner institutions to design and prototype key technologies. The project’s co-principal investigators include (clockwise from upper left) Jonathan Zuegel and Antonino Di Piazza from the University of Rochester, Eva Zurek from the University of Buffalo, Franklin Dollar from the University of California–Irvine, and Ani Aprahamian from the University of Notre Dame. Courtesy of Julia Joshpe, University of Rochester.
The National Science Foundation has provided funding for the University of Rochester and partner institutions to design and prototype key technologies. The project’s co-principal investigators include (clockwise from upper left) Jonathan Zuegel and Antonino Di Piazza from the University of Rochester; Eva Zurek from the University of Buffalo; Franklin Dollar from the University of California, Irvine; and Ani Aprahamian from the University of Notre Dame. Courtesy of Julia Joshpe/University of Rochester.
The Omega Laser Facility at LLE already houses OMEGA and OMEGA EP, powerful lasers used by researchers from around the world. EP-OPAL, which stands for OMEGA EP-coupled Optical Parametric Amplifier Lines (OPAL), will be designed to add two of the most powerful lasers in the world, and to harness the capabilities of the high-energy OMEGA EP laser. The facility is envisioned to provide laser capabilities beyond those currently available internationally.


A successful EP-OPAL design would enable the highest-power laser system in the world, according to principal investigator Jonathan Zuegel, a distinguished scientist at LLE and a professor of optics at Rochester. “Its two laser beams combined will deliver laser pulses with peak power approaching the same total power as incident on Earth’s surface from the sun, but focused into an area smaller than the cross-section of a human hair,” he said.

The project leverages the expertise, resources, and talents of partner institutions, including the universities of Buffalo, California at Irvine, Notre Dame, Maryland, and Michigan; Ohio State University; and Plymouth Grating Laboratory. The funding is part of NSF’s Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure-1 Program.

News of the award comes after the LLE was awarded a $14.9 million contract with the DOD last month to study pulsed-laser effects. According to the university, the funding approximately doubles the annual funding it has received from the DOD in recent years, and it will help to develop a talent pipeline to support the broad use of laser-based, directed-energy systems.

Published: September 2023
Glossary
power
With respect to a lens, the reciprocal of its focal length. The term power, as applied to a telescope or microscope, often is used as an abbreviation for magnifying power.
intensity
Flux per unit solid angle.
BusinesseducationLasersFacilityfundingresearchlaser-matter interactionspowerintensityinteractionsNational Science FoundationNSFMid-scale Research Infrastructure-1University of RochesterOmegaOmega EPEP-OPALProjectprototypedesignAmericas

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