The Extreme Light Infrastructure for Nuclear Physics (ELI-NP) project in Romania has reached a significant milestone: the ultra-high intensity laser system developed by Thales has successfully generated its first pulses at a peak power level of 10 petawatts (1015 W).
After an initial development and production phase and preliminary verification of subsystem performance in France, Thales began delivery and installation of the world’s most powerful laser system at the Măgurele facility near Bucharest in late 2016. This system is designed to generate twin laser beams of 10 PW each and will be the core instrument of a fundamental research facility in nuclear physics. The Thales system is now fully integrated and tested, with successful demonstration of a power level of 3 PW with each laser in 2018.
Since the start of 2019, the Thales team of French and Romanian engineers has been working on finalizing and scaling up the system, progressively increasing its pulse energy and peak power level. After demonstration of a beam delivering pulses of 7 PW for more than 4 hours continuously, the Thales system generated its first pulses with a record power level of 10 PW on 7 March 2019. This means that means that the Romanian National Institute of Physics and Nuclear Engineering (IFIN-HH) and ELI-NP now have the most powerful laser in the world, according to Thales.
Thales invests €3 billion invested in R&D every year. The company joined the Extreme Light Infrastructure for Nuclear Physics (ELI-NP) programme in 2013 to develop the High Power Laser System (HPLS), the most powerful system of its kind in the world. This laser will support research in nuclear physics and help advance human understanding of the physics of matter.
"10 PW is a tenfold leap from the power level demonstrated at the start of the project<' says professor Gérard Mourou, winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics and initiator of the ELI infrastructure. "It's been a huge challenge for Thales and Romania — on a par with a lunar landing, where failure is not an option. I've hardly been able to catch my breath in the last two years. Hats off to Thales and Romania. Congratulations and thank you, because now the science community will be able to make use of this truly remarkable instrument."