NERS to Support NSF-Funded EP-OPAL Laser Facility

Igor Jovanovic will collaborate with the University of Rochester to create a shielding design for managing the intense radiation produced by the EP-OPAL facility.

NERS will support a three-year initiative focused on the design and prototyping of essential technologies for EP-OPAL, a forthcoming facility dedicated to the exploration of ultrahigh-intensity laser-matter interactions. The initiative, led by the University of Rochester, has received a grant of nearly $18 million from the National Science Foundation. This funding, a component of NSF’s Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure-1 Program, aids the agency in positioning the United States at the forefront of global leadership in science and engineering.

High-intensity lasers empower a substantial and vital realm of both foundational and groundbreaking scientific endeavors, encompassing disciplines from plasma science and particle acceleration to laboratory astrophysics and laser-driven nuclear physics. These efforts have yielded applications across the realms of science, medicine, commerce, and industry.

NERS professor Igor Jovanovic will work with the University of Rochester team to develop a shielding design for the complex radiation environment generated by the new EP-OPAL facility. Intense laser-matter interactions produce a copious amount of energetic ionizing radiation, both in primary and secondary beams – including energetic gamma rays, pions, muons, electrons, and heavier charged particles. Production of this radiation must be evaluated and its emission must be contained, which is similar to traditional large particle accelerator facilities.

The United States is at a pivotal moment in the realm of laser science and technology. New laser facilities, such as NSF ZEUS here at the University of Michigan, are on the verge of becoming operational. ZEUS is set to claim the title of the United States’ highest peak power laser, solidifying its position among the globe’s most formidable laser systems. Notably, the National Ignition Facility achieved a significant scientific milestone last year by attaining ignition, a fusion reaction that generates a net energy surplus. (NERS alum, Andrea Kritcher, was the designer of the experiment.)

Upon its successful completion of construction expected to follow this design project, EP-OPAL is poised to claim the distinction of being the world’s most powerful laser system, according to the project’s principal investigator, Jonathan Zuegel.

This project also includes contributors from the University of California–Irvine, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Maryland, and Ohio State University—and a private company, Plymouth Grating Laboratory in Massachusetts. 

For more information on this initiative, please see the University of Rochester press release here.

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