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X-ray Laser Progress Updated
Aug 2008
BELFAST, Northern Ireland, Aug. 19, 2008 -- Progress toward producing the first-ever functioning x-ray laser in Ireland is being presented this week during an international conference on x-ray lasers at Queen's University Belfast.

Leading scientists from the world's major high-power laser laboratories will be able to view the new sophisticated laser system at the university during the 11th International Conference on X-ray Lasers, Aug. 17-22.

A research report on the laser is also being presented during the conference, which will feature more than 30 invited speakers from countries including China, the US, Japan, Korea, Russia, France and Germany who will cover recent experimental and theoretical developments in the field.
Professors Ciaran Lewis (left) and Bill Graham (right) in the Plasma Physics Lab at Queen's University (Photo courtesy Queen’s University Media Services).
More than 25 years ago it took a nuclear explosion under the Nevada desert to power the world’s first x-ray laser. The new x-ray laser at Queen's will be powered by another optical laser, which the university said is one of the most powerful optical lasers available in any university laboratory worldwide. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) awarded £2.1 million several years ago for the construction of the Taranis to create extremely hot plasmas.

"Plasmas are the 'fourth state of matter,' along with gases, liquids and solids. In fact, 99 percent of the observable universe, including the stars we see in the sky, is in the plasma state," said professor Ciaran Lewis of Queen's Centre for Plasma Physics.

Four hundred times more powerful than the entire UK National Grid when in operation, it is known as Taranis (terawatt apparatus for relativistic and nonlinear interdisciplinary science). Named after the European Celtic god of thunder and lightning, it relies on a very powerful infrared laser system which has been recently installed within the Centre for Plasma Physics at Queen’s.

Both laser systems will enable Queen’s researchers to attract and build a level of expertise in the general area of plasma physics, previously beyond the reach of an in-house university-scale research program in the UK, the university said.

"X-ray lasers can be used to probe and diagnose very dense plasma conditions of the type, for example, anticipated in the core of fuel pellets compressed by powerful optical lasers. It is tremendously exciting that Queen’s laser systems are now capable of carrying out world-leading experiments involving laser-plasma interactions in extreme conditions," Lewis said.

"The need for an increased effort in plasma physics research and for more trained plasma physicists is driven by the expanding use of plasmas in a wide range of applications in industry, including the effort to determine if laser-produced nuclear fusion can provide for the world's post-oil power needs," he said. "Highlighting these two new systems to our international research colleagues will ensure Queen's Centre for Plasma Physics and its researchers remain to the fore of global breakthroughs in the area of high energy density physics. We are anticipating many new international collaborations."

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Pertaining to optics and the phenomena of light.
A gas made up of electrons and ions.
Basic ScienceBelfastCentre for Plasma PhysicsCiaran LewisConsumerenergyEPSRCIndustry EventsInternational Conference on X-ray lasersIrelandopticalplasmaQueens UniversityTaranisterawattx-raylasers

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