Swindon, England--Through simulations, scientists from the Instituto Superior Tecnico in Lisbon, Imperial College London, and the Universities of St. Andrews, Lancaster, and Strathclyde as well as the Science and Technology Facilities Council's (STFC's) Central Laser Facility staff have demonstrated the feasibility of boosting Raman amplification into the multipetawatt regime, which could compress high-power laser-pulse lengths by a factor of 1000, at the same time boosting their peak powers by a factor of 300.1 This means that current very expensive and complex laser set-ups could eventually be replaced with smaller and more cost-effective systems. As a result, many technologies--including those using lasers to produce x-rays--would become far more accessible and easier to mass-produce.
The technique has been examined over a two year period using 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 through rigorous experimental testing.
1. R. M. G. M. Trines et al., Nature Physics, October 10, 2010.
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