October 12, 2010
Smaller And Cheaper But 300 Times More Intense
Scientists and supercomputers prove theory which could revolutionize lasers
More brilliant X-rays, more cost-effective methods for developing new energy sources and advanced manufacturing processes are just some of the benefits which may come from a novel technology, proven at the theoretical level by a consortium of British and European laser scientists. The research, led by scientists at the Science and Technology Facilities Council's Central Laser Facility is published in this week's edition of Nature Physics (October 10 2010).
The technique has been examined over a two year period, using some of the world's most powerful supercomputers, to test every possible aspect of the theory. "In the past, studies have been carried out to test the theory, but only using simplified models which do not include all of the relevant phenomena. Our new model has shown that, in most cases, the amplified laser beam breaks up into 'spikes', making it difficult to focus the beam to a small spot" said Dr Raoul Trines from STFC's Central Laser Facility. "But for a few special cases, the amplified laser pulse is of excellent quality, enabling exceptionally tight focusing of the beam".
Professor John Collier, Director, STFC's Central Laser Facility said; "This year's celebration of 50 years of the laser* is a poignant reminder that we need to start thinking about the next generation of laser technology. We have come to rely on lasers so much in our daily lives, for everything from high speed internet connections to medical techniques, that we can't afford to pause even for a moment in developing laser techniques further, because these new techniques take years to develop and test".
The next step is to apply the theoretical study on an actual high power laser and fine tune the method through rigorous experimental testing.
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