An international team of physicists has proposed a revolutionary laser system, inspired by the telecommunications technology, to produce the next generation of particle accelerators, such as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).
The International Coherent Amplification Network (ICAN) sets out a new laser system composed of massive arrays of thousands of fibre lasers, for both fundamental research at laboratories such as CERN and more applied tasks such as proton therapy and nuclear transmutation. The results of this study are published today in Nature Photonics.
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.
Compact accelerators are also of great societal importance for applied tasks in medicine, such as a unique way to democratise proton therapy for cancer treatment, or the environment where it offers the prospect to reduce the lifetime of dangerous nuclear waste by, in some cases, from 100 thousand years to tens of years or even less.
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, an EU-funded project initiated and coordinated by the École 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. More here Scientists propose revolutionary laser system to produce the next LHC.