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A new laser facility for extreme dynamic compression and temperature experiments comes to life


The new High-Power Laser-Facility (HPLF), which is integrated on the ID24 beamline, will enable researchers to explore matter in unprecedented high-pressure and high-temperature conditions.

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These last few weeks have been a rollercoaster for Raffaella Torchio, in charge of the new High Power Laser Facility, and her team. After finalising the last touches to the new and complex laser shock set-up,which integrates the Amplitude 50J laser to the ID24 beamline, they welcomed the first users. “This is a unique facility, which doesn’t exist anywhere in the world, so, it was an amazing feeling to see it running for the first time”, explains Torchio.

The first users included scientists from six different laboratories:  ISterre (Grenoble), ENSMA (Poitier), CEA (Bruyeres le Chatel), LULI (Palaiseau), IMPMC (Paris) and EuXFEL (Germany). Arnaud Sollier, researcher at the CEA and long-time user at the ESRF, said: “We did the first precursor experiment to test the idea at the ESRF in 2014, with a shock laser from the CEA”, he says. “It is a big satisfaction to see that the concept of the HPLF has finally become a reality, and we are really happy to have been the first users”, he adds.

The HPLF enables researchers to study matter at extreme conditions of temperature and pressure by combining laser-induced dynamic compression and X-ray absorption spectroscopy. This instrument will tackle the mystery of Warm Dense Matter, an exotic state found in planets that is poorly understood. It could contribute to the development of new sources of energy, such as inertial confinement fusion, and it could show whether the newly found exoplanets could become habitable in the future.

The HPLF will also make the study of space impacts, such as meteorites impacts, and in materials science, it will allow the synthesis of super strong materials, such as hard ceramics used in industrial applications.

There are many scientific communities that will benefit from the new infrastructure, including geologists, plasma physicists or planetary scientists. “I feel very excited about starting this adventure and cannot wait to perform groundbreaking experiments, probing matter in unexplored conditions and with unprecedented data quality”, says Torchio.

Text by Montserrat Capellas Espuny. Video by Montserrat Capellas Espuny and Mark McGee.

Top image: Nicolas Sevelin-Radiguet (left) and Raffaella Torchio in the High Power Laser Facility. Credits: S. Cand√©.