13 Oct 2010   |   News

European research consortium paves the way to higher power, lower-cost lasers

Research lead

Novel Raman amplification technology has been proven at the theoretical level by a consortium of European laser scientists, paving the way to more brilliant X-rays, and more cost-effective methods for developing new energy sources and advanced manufacturing processes.

The team of scientists from the Instituto Superior Tecnico in Lisbon, Imperial College London, the universities of St Andrews, Lancaster and Strathclyde and the UK Science and Technology Facilities Councils’ Central Laser Facility, demonstrated the feasibility of Raman amplification, which can take long laser pulses and compress them to 1000 times shorter, but with intensities 300 times greater.

This means that current very expensive and complex laser set-ups could eventually be replaced with smaller and more cost-effective systems, making methods used to develop X-rays which rely on lasers far more accessible and easier to mass produce.

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 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.”

The next step will be to apply the theoretical study on an actual high power laser and fine-tune the method.

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