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The Future of Ultrafast Lasers in the U.S.: CLEO Special Event Panel Discussion

By Suzanne Ffolkes, OSA Chief Communications Officer


Is the U.S. losing its competitive edge in the development of high peak power lasers? According to the co-chairs of the Brightest Light Initiative (BLI), countries in Europe and Asia are investing heavily in high peak power lasers while U.S. investments have declined significantly. The Brightest Light Initiative and the future of intense ultrafast lasers in the U.S. was the focus of a special event held Tuesday, 12 May during the all-virtual CLEO Technical Conference. More than 1,000 participants across the globe joined the panel discussion.

Over the last decade, Europe and Asia have experienced enormous growth in ultrafast laser research while the U.S. has remained stagnant. “The investments made in these facilities (in Europe and Asia) also represent where talent is going because people go where the capabilities are and where the investments are being made,” said Roger Falcone, professor, University of California at Berkeley, USA.

Three new Extreme Light Infrastructure facilities in Europe, a one billion Euro investment, are operating or under construction in Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic. These facilities have taken advantage of the global efforts and the critical technologies provided by the U.S., he noted.

Competing priorities and complacency may be reasons for the decline in U.S. investments in science and technology, Falcone added. “We as a community need to make the argument that this is exciting science, this is important technology for the world to undertake and it will have benefits for industry, create jobs and drive new frontiers of science.”

The BLI workshop held at The Optical Society (OSA) in Washington, D.C. USA, 27 – 29 March 2019, focused on fundamental research using advanced high-powered lasers, as well as scientific challenges and technologies.

Among the seven recommendations in the BLI report is to expand the scope and capabilities of LaserNetUS, a consortium of nine facilities across the U.S. that provides open access to high-intensity lasers.

“The network will not only lead to groundbreaking science, but it will also foster important research, train early career scientists and enable partnerships with industry,” said Félicie Albert, staff scientist and deputy director, High Energy Density Science Center, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, USA.

Shovel-ready programs funded by U.S. agencies have the capability to deliver high-technology jobs, said Jonathan Zuegel, professor of optics; director, Laser Development and Engineering Division, Laboratory for Laser Energetics.

The National Science Foundation’s mid-scale research infrastructure initiative has recently jumpstarted U.S. investments in intense lasers. The University of Michigan, USA was awarded $16 million for ZEUS, the first U.S. laser facility with 0.5-PWand 2.5-PW beamlines and Ohio State University, USA received $16 million for NEXUS, the first HHG/attosecond facility.

The Matter at Extreme Conditions (MEC) petawatt upgrade at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory will deliver state-of-the-art laser capabilities with a new underground cavern for lasers and experimental systems, Zuegel noted, and the new Department of Energy Office of Fusion Energy Sciences experimental facility will help maintain U.S. leadership in high energy density physics.

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Posted: 12 May 2020 by Suzanne Ffolkes, OSA Chief Communications Officer | with 0 comments

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