The Extreme Light Infrastructure ERIC

Research Programs

The ultrashort and ultra-intense pulses of light and the particles generated from interaction with solid state and gas target materials will allow a broad spectrum of projects in fundamental and applied research in chemistry, biology, medical technologies, development of new materials, and other areas.

The development, research and engineering activities within the ELI-Beamlines project are structured into six Research Programs.

Research Program 1: Lasers generating repetition rate ultrashort pulses and multi-petawatt peak power

The objective of this research program is to deliver the laser system as the principal instrument and backbone for the ELI-Beamlines facility. The main elements of the laser system design follow the principles described in the ELI White Book [1] and are summarized in the technical design report [2]. When commissioning the laser systems in the first phase of the research program, we will continue ramping up the parameters of the individual beam lines as required in this document and continue with the development of specific technologies.

Research Program 2: X-ray sources driven by repetition rate ultrashort laser pulses

The goal of this research program is to develop X-ray sources that are based on the interaction of ultrashort laser pulses with matter and to operate these for applications on a routine basis. These sources include, most notably, plasma-based X-ray lasers, plasma betatron, advanced K-alpha sources (also mentioned in a more general way as incoherent plasma), high-order harmonic generation in the keV region, and a compact X-ray-free electron laser. Among the competitive features of the X-ray sources developed and operated at ELI-Beamlines will be photon energy, very high spectral brightness, ultrashort pulse duration, and the inherent synchronization capability of the X-ray pulses with the IR/VIS laser pulses and/or with electron bunches for advanced pump-probe experiments. Applications of the femtosecond X-ray flashes generated at ELI-Beamlines include those such as X-ray phase-contrast imaging, X-ray and gamma-ray scatter-based imaging, and XUV and X‑ray holography of complex cells and proteins, as well as the study of the very first steps of biochemical reactions, and many others.

Research Program 3: Particle acceleration by lasers

The goal of this research program is to develop laser-accelerated, versatile sources of electrons with energies achieving several tens of GeV and protons/ions with energies achieving a few GeV. A particular goal is the development of repetition rate proton/ion quasi-monochromatic sources with energy typically between 60 and 250 MeV. This research will be focused on improving the stability and quality of the generated beams, in terms of luminosity, emittance, and the energy profile. These advanced, high-energy particle beams with the concomitant environment (diagnostics, radiation protection, etc.) will allow for multidisciplinary applications to be accomplished, such as the development of high-quality and low-cost proton sources, namely for medicine (proton therapy), physics, and material science (electron and photon diffraction), as well as for accelerator science. Research Program 3 is strongly linked to both Research Program 2, which involves developing free-electron lasers (FEL) consisting of laser wakefield accelerators as a source of relativistic electrons that are then injected into an undulator, and to Research Program 5, which uses high-energy particle beams for applications in dense plasma probing.

Research Program 4: Applications in molecular, biomedical, and material sciences

The goal of this research program is to build and operate user stations that are designed to enable research into challenging applications in molecular, biomedical, and material (MBM) sciences using ultrashort XUV/X-ray and particle secondary sources, as well as the primary IR laser pulses. A major feature of ELI-Beamlines is that it will be capable of providing a unique combination of near-perfect spatial overlap and temporal synchronization of various secondary sources and the laser pulses. This will allow for the realization of advanced pump-probe experiments, which are mostly inaccessible with current techniques. Researchers will be enabled to study mechanisms of physical and chemical processes at the atomic scale, to probe and control electronic processes in matter, to study complex systems in the natural state, to examine living cells at nanometer resolution, and to investigate other areas as well. The techniques that will be used involve mainly X-ray coherent imaging with atomic resolution, X-ray holography with atomic resolution, time-resolved X-ray diffraction and absorption spectroscopy, sub-picosecond pulse radiolysis, probing of diluted systems, and X-ray and gamma-ray phase and scatter-sensitive imaging of materials and bio-medical objects.

Research Program 5: Laser plasma and high-energy density physics

The goal of this research program is to develop experimental projects in the field of dense plasmas and in high-energy density physics (HEDP). The topics may involve the nonlinear optics of plasmas and laser interactions with underdense plasmas, relativistic plasmas, laser interaction with solids/clusters/mass-limited targets, generation of warm dense matter (WDM), and physics of advanced fusion schemes, especially with regard to fast ignition. Among the topics related to the physics of advanced fusion schemes involving fast ignition are studies into areas such as transporting high-current electron beams in dense plasmas for fast ignition, stopping a proton beam in a preformed dense plasma, and the propagation and collisions in dense plasmas for shock ignition. Techniques for probing active plasma will be developed and prepared for field testing in selected experiments. Most notably, these will include two- and three-dimensional time-resolved proton radiography, optical and X-ray diagnostics using shadowgraphy, interferometry, and Thomson scattering. With the prospect of jitter-free synchronization of pulses delivered by different beam lines, it will be possible to perform various interaction experiments with preformed plasmas and sophisticated pump and probe experiments.

Research Program 6: High-field physics

The principal goal of this research program is to explore specific themes of the ultra-relativistic regime of laser-matter interaction, with focused intensities exceeding 1023 Wcm-2, which is sometimes also referred to as exotic physics. This intensity territory, which is experimentally inaccessible at present, will provide an unprecedented tool for testing fundamental predictions of quantum electrodynamics in external strong electromagnetic (laser) fields and will involve several fields such as atomic physics, plasma physics, particle physics, nuclear physics, quantum field theory, ultra-high-pressure physics, astrophysics and cosmology, and possibly others. The “exotic” candidate experiments to be developed in Research Program 6 include, for example, electron-positron plasmas, vacuum four-wave mixing, vacuum polarization and vacuum birefringence, and QED cascades (experimental tests on all-optical inverse Compton scattering will be performed on a preliminary basis in Research Program 3).

[1] Extreme Light Infrastructure: Report on the Grand Challenges Meeting 2009, edited by G. Korn and P. Antici (2009).

[2] Report on the ELI Science: Scientific Advisory Committee of Extreme Light Infrastructure, edited by T. Tajima (2009)

[3] Annex XXI, Request for Confirmation of Assistance, Infrastructure Investment: ELI – Extreme Light Infrastructure, CCI No. 2009CZ161PR019

[4] Technical Annex (TA) to the Decision on funding of the ELI-Beamlines project by MSMT, Project No. CZ.1.05/1.1.00/02.0061