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First laser systems arrive at ELI-ALPS institute

A mid-infrared laser and a terahertz laser will be among the first operational systems at the Extreme Light Infrastructure Attosecond Light Pulse Source (ELI-ALPS) research institute in Szeged, Hungary, after being delivered in September. The lasers, along with a third, high repitition rate source to be delievered this month, will be available for the first pre-booked research experiments in November.

The ELI-ALPS institute grants international researchers access to high repetition rate, short pulse lasers, and is expected to lead to outstanding results not only in the field of ultrafast physical processes but also in biological, medical and materials sciences.

The ELI-ALPS Research Institute will house lasers offering the highest repition rates and shortest pulses. (Credit: ELI-ALPS) 

The University of Pécs in Hungary won the research and development tender for the design, implementation and startup of the terahertz source for €2.74 million, while the mid-infrared laser was developed in a research and development project led by French ultrafast pulse shaping firm Fastlite for €1.59 million.

‘The terahertz source of ELI-ALPS is pulsed, meaning that it generates high-intensity electromagnetic fields in a given time period, not permanently,' stated Károly Osvay, research technology director of ELI-ALPS. ‘This laser-driven terahertz source will presumably open new basic research opportunities in nanoscience, as well as in the investigation of dynamics of chemical reactions.’

Next year the terahertz capability of ELI-ALPS will be completed with a high energy pulsed laser, allowing researchers to explore terahertz nonlinearities, as well as particle acceleration. Terahertz radiation has been used in only a couple of research institutes previously, according to Osvay, and has become well-known to the public in the last decade, with the wavelength being used in security gates at airports, for example.

Regarding the mid-infrared laser source, Osvay commented: ‘This system will primarily function as a new device for biologists, biophysicists, chemists and pharmacists examining molecules, molecule structures, vibrational and kinetic structures and their dynamics.’

Two European research teams have already expressed their intent to use the mid-infrared laser in their own experiments, according to Osvay. ‘Next week we are continuing discussions with colleagues at the Biological Research Centre in Szeged, who intend to examine biological and biophysical samples in ELI-ALPS,’ he explained.

The two new systems are particularly significant as up until now there haven’t been any user accessible light sources in these wavelengths. A further third source, a high repetition rate laser, is due to arrive this month, and will be used by researchers in the fields of surface physics, and atomic and molecular science. The acceptance tests trial periods for all three systems will likely end in late October, with the pre-booked experiments starting in November.

A five terawatt, 1kHz OPCPA-based laser system worth €4 million was finished earlier this year, also for the ELI-ALPS project, by a consortium led by Ekspla and Light Conversion, two Lithuanian companies based in Vilnius.

The second implementation phase of ELI-ALPS Research Institute is supported by 40.052 billion HUF (approximately €130 million), 85 per cent of which is funded by the EU's Regional Development Fund.

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