Washington: Physicists have proposed a revolutionary new laser system to produce the next generation of particle accelerators, such as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) which aided the discovery of a Higgs Boson last year.
The International Coherent Amplification Network (ICAN) proposes a new laser system composed of massive arrays of thousands of fibre lasers, for both fundamental research at laboratories such as European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) and more applied tasks such as proton therapy and nuclear transmutation.
Lasers can provide, in a very short time measured in femtoseconds, bursts of energy of great power counted in petawatts or a thousand times the power of all the power plants in the world.
However, there are two major hurdles that prevent the high-intensity laser from becoming a viable and widely used technology in the future.
First, a high-intensity laser often only operates at a rate of one laser pulse per second, when for practical applications it would need to operate tens of thousands of times per second.
The second is ultra-intense lasers are notorious for being very inefficient, producing output powers that are a fraction of a percent of the input power.
As practical applications would require output powers in the range of tens of kilowatts to megawatts, it is economically not feasible to produce this power with such a poor efficiency.
To bridge this technology divide, the ICAN consortium, initiated and coordinated by the Ecole polytechnique and composed of the University of Southampton`s Optoelectronics Research Centre, Jena and CERN, as well as 12 other prestigious laboratories around the world, aims to harness the efficiency, controllability, and high average power capability of fibre lasers to produce high energy, high repetition rate pulse sources.
The aim is to replace the conventional single monolithic rod amplifier that typically equips lasers with a network of fibre amplifiers and telecommunication components.
"One important application demonstrated today has been the possibility to accelerate particles to high energy over very short distances measured in centimetres rather than kilometres as it is the case today with conventional technology," Gerard Mourou of Ecole polytechnique who leads the consortium said.
"This feature is of paramount importance when we know that today high energy physics is limited by the prohibitive size of accelerators, of the size of tens of kilometres, and cost billions of euros. Reducing the size and cost by a large amount is of critical importance for the future of high energy physics," Mourou said.