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Canada invests in femtosecond facility

15 Apr 2004

Canada is spending C$20.95 million on a femtosecond laser system capable of emitting up to 200TW of peak power.

A consortium of international institutions has been awarded C$20.95m (EURO 13.1m) to develop a state-of-the-art femtosecond laser facility in Canada. Dubbed the Advanced Laser Light Source (ALLS), the system will be used for everything from fundamental research into ultrashort pulses to dynamic molecular imaging.

“The central concept of ALLS is to use a variety of laser interactions, spanning the X-ray to infrared, with sufficient peak power to manipulate matter and probe its dynamics,” Jean-Claude Kieffer, ALLS project director, told Optics.org. “The ALLS will be a multi-line Ti:sapphire laser and will make use of the most recent ultrafast laser technology.”

ALLS, which will have five beam lines, will be housed at the University of Quebec’s Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) in Varennes. “This laser system is designed to have various repetition rates, multi-KHz, 100 Hz and 10 Hz, and produce various peak and average powers,” said Kieffer. “Up to 200 TW in peak power and up to 40 W in average power will be available.”

Kieffer predicts that the first part of ALLS, a 100Hz/multi-terawatt line and a 10 Hz/10 TW line, will be up and running by the end of 2004. He expects the full system, including the 200 TW line, to be fully operational in spring 2006.

ALLS will find a variety of applications once it is operational. One short-term goal is to use the 100 Hz system to generate high average power femtosecond hard X-rays to perform high-resolution imaging of breast cancer. The laser will also be used for dynamic molecular imaging.

“Recently, Canadian groups have developed ideas for dynamic imaging by combining major advances in ultrafast measurements and in molecule imaging,” said Kieffer. “A completely new approach to dynamic investigation of matter has been proposed for ALLS and will be explored.”

According to Kieffer, ALLS will also be used to produce single attosecond pulses in the soft X-ray range using high harmonic generation and electron re-collision.

Funding was provided by the Canada Foundation of Innovation.

Jacqueline Hewett is technology editor on Optics.org and Opto & Laser Europe magazine.

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