OMEGA EP Laser DedicationMay, 2008
On Friday, 16 May 2008, Dr. Robert McCrory, Vice Provost, Director, and CEO of the Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE), along with special guests, which included University of Rochester President Joel Seligman, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, U.S. Congressman Thomas Reynolds, and Undersecretary for Nuclear Security for the U.S. Department of Energy Thomas D’Agostino, dedicated the new OMEGA EP laser at the Robert L. Sproull Center for Ultra High Intensity Laser Research at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics.
OMEGA EP Laser System Complete and Ready for Operation
Under development since 2001 at the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics, construction of the OMEGA EP (Extended Performance) Laser System, the most powerful laser on Earth, is now complete, and the system is ready for operation. OMEGA EP significantly extends the performance and capabilities of the OMEGA Laser System, which held Samual Morse, OMEGA EP Project Manager the world record for the highest laser energy (per pulse) from 1999 to 2005, with which United States scientists are developing inertial confinement fusion (ICF) as a reliable energy source. Fusion, which is non-polluting, is the nuclear process that powers stars and its fuel, derived from seawater, is nearly inexhaustible. A subset of the objectives of the newly augmented OMEGA Laser System includes:
- providing intense short-pulse bursts of x rays to probe cryogenic target compressions
- enabling LLE to perform world-class, fully integrated cryogenic fast-ignition experiments
- exploring advanced schemes to achieve ICF ignition and high gain
- examining a broad range of high-energy-density physics that characterize ultrahigh-intensity laser–matter interactions
Steven J. Loucks, LLE Deputy Director
Two of OMEGA EP’s four laser beams can produce pulses generating over 2,600 joules in 10 ps, making OMEGA EP the world’s most energetic short-pulse laser. These beams can be delivered either to targets within the OMEGA EP design group existing OMEGA target chamber or to a new and independent chamber within the OMEGA EP Target Area Structure. Simply put, high-intensity short pulses can be made to function much like a strobe on a camera, stopping the action and illuminating the event. In more dramatic terms, these powerhouse pulses will supply more energy in a brief instant of time than 1,000 times the output of the entire United States electrical grid. This co-location of the compressional capabilities of the OMEGA laser with the petawatt (one million billion watts of power) capability of the OMEGA EP Laser Facility provides OMEGA EP amplifier development team a unique platform to verify laboratory ignition-relevant design models. The short- and long-pulse systems operating jointly will interrogate both high-velocity and high-density regimes in a manner that is well beyond what is currently possible.
The OMEGA EP Laser System is housed inside the Robert L. Sproull Center for Ultra High Intensity Laser Research—LLE’s new 84,000-sq ft addition—which began construction in 2003 and was completed in February 2005. In November 2007 the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced the renewal of LLE’s five-year Cooperative Agreement, providing funding of up to $351 million through 2012. Such funding makes it possible for LLE’s more than 500 scientists, engineers, employees, and students to continue their research into ICF fusion, laser science and development, plasma physics, and high-intensity optics. To remain on schedule with the complex integration of new technologies and existing facilities and to ensure safe operation of the new laser, Samuel F. B. Morse, the OMEGA EP Project Manager, and the dedicated staff throughout LLE volunteered countless personal hours, which included 4 a.m.-to-midnight shifts over six-month cycles. Taking five years to conceive, design, prototype, and realize, this remarkable project owes its on-time and on-budget completion to the consistently meticulous participation of all LLE employees. LLE’s noteworthy synergy, combining the talents of scientists, engineers, technicians, and students in a uniquely collaborative environment, has helped establish the Laboratory’s leading role across the globe in ICF, laser science, and high-intensity optics.