A new multi-beam, multi-PW Extreme Field Laser at UT Austin – Science and Prospects

Wednesday, February 22, 2017 - 3:00pm

Speaker:  Bjorn M. Hegelich, UT Austin

Program Description

UT Austin is planning to upgrade its current Petawatt laser with
the addition of 3 additional high energy beams as well as two
more experimental areas. The new beams would include high
energy, nanosecond pulses, ultrahigh contrast sub-ps pulses in
the few hundred TW range as well as an ultrashort, 5 PW laser
pulse. In this presentation I will outline the current plans and
timeline for this new enhanced capability and possible models
for community participation. I will also discuss the current status
of ultrahigh intensity science at UT Austin and the new regimes
enabled by the envisioned new facility.
Ultrahigh intensity lasers have become a key new technology
over the last two decades. Growing from Terawatt to Petawatt peak powers and poised to grow further,
they are potential drivers for fundamental physics research as well as applied science and technology. We
have used ultraintense lasers to reach in to the regime of relativistic plasmas, emulate astrophysical situations
in the laboratory and are poised to tackle non-perturbative quantum physics and even beyond standard
model physics. Applications being investigated range from compact accelerators and light sources to
material science, energy science and medical imaging and diagnostics.
Specifically, relativistic plasmas created by ultrahigh intensity lasers have been shown to be a very efficient
source of high energy electrons and ions, accelerating protons to >150 MeV proton energies, carbon
ions to >1 GeV, and gold ions to ~4.5 GeV. Exploiting these plasma mechanisms, we were able to
demonstrate the world’s brightest neutron source with >1018 neutrons/s, as well as a high brightness, collimated
γ-ray beam with photon energies >50 MeV. I will review how these advances can be used in applications
and outline where the field is going as we are pushing two boundaries: higher average power,
driven by application requirements and the need for more data and better statistic and higher peak power
to reach new regimes of fundamental physics.
Here, at intensities of I > 1022 W/cm2 the relativistic approximations are insufficient and quantum effects
have to be taken into account. Currently, there are no successful non-perturbative, dynamic quantum field
theories, which are necessary to calculate quantum effects in the presence of strong classical potentials.
Important problems involving strong classical potentials are found in e.g. in Quantum Electrodynamics,
Quantum Chromodynamics and Gravity. Example problems include: determining the Parton distribution
function, modeling the transition of colliding hadrons to a Quark-Gluon-Plasma (QGP), or describing particle
creation in the vicinity of a black hole, electron dynamics in the magnetic field of a neutron star, and
spontaneous pair creation from the quantum vacuum in the presence of a strong electromagnetic field.

A new multi-beam, multi-PW Extreme Field Laser at UT Austin – Science and Prospects
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