The ELI Beamlines laser centre is now open

On October 19th, 2015 the ELI Beamlines laser facility was inaugurated in Dolní Břežany. The first implementation phase of the ELI Beamlines project was officially concluded in the presence of many major domestic and foreign guests from the world of science and politics.

The program of the ELI Beamlines grand opening ceremony was varied. The initial greetings were given by prominent Czech and foreign guests such as the President of Czech Academy of Sciences Jiří Drahoš, the President of the Senate of the Czech Republic Milan Štěch, Deputy of Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport Václav Velčovský, Governor of the Central Bohemian Region Miloš Petera, Archbishop of Prague Dominik cardinal Duka, Director General of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) Francesco Sette, Director General of the ELI-DC International Association Wolfgang Sandner, Chairman of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructure John Womersley, French physicist and founder of the ELI project Gérard Mourou, Deputy director for science and technology in the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California Patricia Falcone and Director of the Institute of Physics Jan Řídký. After the guest speakers activities which introduced entire ELI Beamlines laser research center ensued.

“The participation of distinguished guests representing the wide scientific community is for me a confirmation that ELI is a meaningful and sustainable project. It allows scientists to bring new knowledge and together with high-tech companies to find previously unknown technologies which are applicable in everyday life,” – Jiří Drahoš, President of the Czech Academy of Sciences.

Guests had the opportunity to see laser and experimental technologies directly, in one of the laser halls. Here they were introduced to all of laser systems through the means of a virtual reality system.

“We are excited to be working with our colleagues on realizing new capabilities for lasers and looking forward to great scientific results from this wonderful facility”, commented Dr. Patricia K. Falcone, LLNL Deputy Director for Science and Technology.

The visitors were able to see an exhibition of Bogle Architects in the red British double-decker bus which stood next to the laser center. Bogle Architects were awarded the Architectural Project of 2014 for the design of the building of the ELI Beamlines laser facility. All guests had an opportunity, as well as all inhabitants of the Czech Republic, to participate in the ongoing competition “name a superlaser” to invent names for the ELI Beamlines laser systems.

ELI Beamlines is a European laser center, which not only brings cutting-edge research and a technology base for future users, but also thanks to the project has established a long-term cooperation between the Czech, European and American companies and laboratories to develop the unique laser systems pushing the boundaries and parameters of existing research facilities.

“The development of the unique technologies at ELI Beamlines is only possible in cooperation with the best domestic and international laboratories and companies. We succeeded and I believe that we have created a solid base for long-term partnership,” – Jan Řídký, director of the Institute of Physics.

The international scope of the center is focused on joint cooperation with European research infrastructures and is evident through the recent conclusion of a Memorandum of Cooperation with synchrotron Elettra in Trieste (Italy) and by the starting of the project ELITRANS, which is financed by European Commission for € 3.5 mil. This project will help to transform the three ELI pillars in the Czech Republic, Romania and Hungary into one unified pan-European research infrastructure.

ELI as a whole will be the world’s first international laser facility, hosting today’s most sophisticated and most powerful lasers. It will attract the best scientists from all over the world to perform experiments at the frontier of science. Our vision is to make it the “CERN of laser research” said Wolfgang Sandner, Director General of the ELI-DC International Association. “Therefore, Dolní Břežany, Szeged in Hungary and Magurele in Romania will soon be lighthouses on the global map of science. At the same time they will become the nucleus of national and regional technology development in one of Europe’s key technologies, optics and photonics. I congratulate the ELI team in Dolní Břežany and the national authorities in the Czech Republic to the achievements which led to the milestone we are celebrating today”

ELI will have four laser systems which work in mutual synergy. This link of lasers is unique and thanks to it the ELI Beamlines scientists will be able to conduct experiments for which we have not yet had a suitable environment. No one laboratory in the world can offer four very high power laser systems with short (femtosecond) pulses in a single facility. L4 will also be the most powerful laser in the world.

Construction of the center is completed. Currently the final arrangements are underway and the laser hall is being prepared for installation of new technologies which will start at the beginning of the year 2016. The entire complex will be available for user research from January 2018.

Several world records have already been broken during the development of laser systems, for example: “The laser system 3, which we are building together with the US Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, uses the brightest laser diodes that have been ever made in the world,” – Bedřich Rus, chief scientist of ELI laser technology.

Major technological development activities are the P3 chamber, which is the largest experimental chamber for civil and academic research of laser plasma in the world, as well as the delivery of the HHG device, which generates ultrashort coherent pulses of XUV radiation for material research and applications in bio-molecular sciences (eg. imaging of biological samples with high temporal and spatial resolution).

Besides the technological development our research team has already published more than 200 scientific publications including articles in prestigious international journals (e.g. Physical Review Letters and Nature Photonics). “Our publications result from the scientific and technology development being carried out in the preparation for the facility implementation in order to establish a solid basis for user research programmes,” said Georg Korn, leader of the ELI Beamlines experimental team.

Currently, the ELI Beamlines has more than 280 employees, nearly 70% of these are scientific and technical staff (35% of foreigners – mainly from France, Italy, Germany, Poland, Spain, United Kingdom, also from outside of European countries – India Canada, USA, Mexico, Russia, China, Cuba).

As you can see, ELI Beamlines is a truly outstanding achievement. It is a challenge not only for the Institute of Physics of the Czech Academy of Sciences, which has been supporting the project from the beginning, but also for all other universities, research institutes, companies and public institutions across entire Europe.