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Texas’ tabletop laser upgraded to hit peak power of 40TW

23 Aug 2023

Spinoff Tau Systems provides enhancement to develop elements of laser-plasma interactions.

Tau Systems, a developer of ultrafast, compact laser-plasma accelerators, has successfully upgraded the University of Texas Tabletop Terawatt Laser (“UT3”), to enable improved performance for powering a compact particle accelerator. The upgraded UT3 driver laser now produces ultrashort pulses with a peak power of 40 terawatts.

The upgrade is part of a collaboration between UT-spinoff Tau and the Austin-based university to jointly develop the fundamental elements of laser-plasma interactions, advancing the science and technology of compact accelerator systems and advanced light sources, with the goal of making these tools widely available to a broad range of end-users and industry.

The upgraded laser will now achieve almost twice the energy of its predecessor. The upgrade was performed jointly, with the necessary components coming from Thales Laser. Tau commented that it has already shown the potential of the improved facility through the successful laser-driven acceleration of electrons in a new Tau-designed beamline.

Accelerators, EUV and X-ray sources

The UT3 system will be used for the development of compact and novel laser-wakefield accelerators, and EUV and X-ray light sources for applications in the semiconductor industry, materials science, battery technology, medical imaging and more, explained UT.

Bjorn Manuel Hegelich, CEO of Tau Systems and a professor in UT’s Physics Department, said of the new capabilities, “We are looking forward to pushing the engineering frontiers of laser-driven particle accelerators. It will enable us to develop new imaging capabilities for users both from within and from outside UT.”

Prof. Mike Downer, Distinguished Professor of Physics at UT Austin, commented, “The new research capabilities enabled by this upgrade are exciting, and we look forward to furthering the development of compact electron accelerators and X-ray sources.”

Christine Dixon Thiesing, UT Austin’s Associate VP for Discovery to Impact, commented on the successful partnership between the university and TAU Systems, saying: “This is a great example of a private-public partnership between UT Austin and local cutting-edge industry, and a great success story for a spin-out company out of UT Austin.”

The upgrade represents the next significant step in making plasma wakefield accelerators available for commercial use. Tau Systems said it intends to install a system 100 times more powerful in its recently acquired premises in San Diego by the end of 2023.

The opening of the Service Center will create previously unavailable opportunities for researchers across a number of fields especially semiconductor manufacturing through the exploration and the metrology of 3D structures in semiconductors. The Service Center will also allow EV battery developers to comprehensively study the charge and discharge of batteries.

Iridian Spectral TechnologiesCeNing Optics Co LtdMad City Labs, Inc.LASEROPTIK GmbHCHROMA TECHNOLOGY CORP.Berkeley Nucleonics CorporationOptikos Corporation
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