BELLA laser achieves 1PW at 1 pulse a second

27 September 2012

The laser system of the Berkeley Lab Laser Accelerator (BELLA) has achieved a world record for laser performance by delivering 1 PW of power in a 1 Hz pulse only 40 fs long. No other laser system has achieved this peak power at such a rapid pulse rate. Although the laser’s average power is only 42.4 W, it achieves the enormous peak power in part through compression into an extremely short pulse. This laser system will drive the acceleration of electron beams in a metre-long plasma channel, with the aim of reaching 10 GeV for the first time with a laser-driven plasma accelerator.

BELLA, conceived of in 2006 by Wim Leemans, head of the Lasers and Optical Accelerator Systems Integrated Studies programme (LOASIS), is nearing completion at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). The facility builds on previous experiments on laser-driven plasma acceleration by the LOASIS programme. It promises to pave the way for developing compact particle accelerators for high-energy physics, as well as table-top free-electron lasers for investigating materials and biological systems. Experiments to demonstrate the production of 10-GeV electron beams are now beginning.

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