Reaching for the Brightest Light
Committee on Opportunities in the Science, Applications, and
Technology of Intense Ultrafast Lasers
Board on Physics and Astronomy
Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences
A Consensus Study Report of
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
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This study is based on work supported by the Grant No. DE-DC0013488 with the Department of Energy, Grant No. FA9550-14-1-0391 with the Department of the Air Force, and Contract No. N0014-10-G-0589, Task Order #15, with the Department of the Navy. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any agency or organization that provided support for the project.
International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-46769-8
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-46769-1
Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.17226/24939
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Suggested Citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Opportunities in Intense Ultrafast Lasers: Reaching for the Brightest Light. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: https://doi.org/10.17226/24939.
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COMMITTEE ON OPPORTUNITIES IN THE SCIENCE, APPLICATIONS, AND TECHNOLOGY OF INTENSE ULTRAFAST LASERS
PHILIP BUCKSBAUM, NAS,1 Stanford University, Chair
RICCARDO BETTI, University of Rochester
JOHN COLLIER, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory
LOUIS F. DIMAURO, The Ohio State University
ELSA GARMIRE, NAE,2 Dartmouth College
JACQUELINE GISH, NAE, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems
ERNIE GLOVER, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
MARSHALL JONES, NAE, General Electric Global Research
HENRY C. KAPTEYN, NAS, University of Colorado, Boulder
ANDREW LANKFORD, University of California, Irvine
HOWARD MILCHBERG, University of Maryland
STEPHEN MILTON, Los Alamos National Laboratory
PETER MOULTON, NAE, MIT Lincoln Laboratory
C. KUMAR PATEL, NAS/NAE, Pranalytica, Inc. (resigned September 2016)
JAMES C. LANCASTER, Director, Board on Physics and Astronomy
DAVID LANG, Senior Program Officer, Board on Physics and Astronomy, Study Director
NEERAJ P. GORKHALY, Associate Program Officer
HENRY KO, Research Assistant, Board on Physics and Astronomy
LINDA WALKER, Program Coordinator, Board on Physics and Astronomy
BETH DOLAN, Financial Associate
1 NAS, National Academy of Sciences.
2 NAE, National Academy of Engineering.
BOARD ON PHYSICS AND ASTRONOMY
BARBARA V. JACAK, NAS,1 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Chair
ABRAHAM LOEB, NAS, Harvard University, Vice Chair
LOUIS F. DIMAURO, Ohio State University
FRANCIS J. DISALVO, NAS, Cornell University
NATHANIEL J. FISCH, Princeton University
DANIEL FISHER, NAS, Stanford University
WENDY FREEDMAN, NAS, University of Chicago
TIM HECKMAN, NAS, Johns Hopkins University
WENDELL T. HILL III, University of Maryland
ALAN J. HURD, Los Alamos National Laboratory
BARBARA JONES, IBM Almaden Research Center
ANDREW J. LANKFORD, University of California, Irvine
NERGIS MAVALVALA, NAS, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
LYMAN A. PAGE, JR., NAS, Princeton University
STEVEN M. RITZ, University of California, Santa Cruz
JAMES C. LANCASTER, Director
DAVID B. LANG, Senior Program Officer
NEERAJ P. GORKHALY, Associate Program Officer
HENRY KO, Research Assistant
LINDA WALKER, Program Coordinator
BETH DOLAN, Financial Associate
1 NAS, National Academy of Sciences.
The Committee on Opportunities in the Science, Applications, and Technology of Intense Ultrafast Lasers was formed to assess the merit and extent of the scientific and technical advances that such technology would afford the United States were such research pursued in this country.
Specifically, the committee was given the charge reproduced below by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
- Survey high intensity science and related technology, including the following:
- Identify science opportunities opened up by ultrafast, high peak power lasers at the frontiers of peak power and average power (“high intensity science”).
- Assess the potential impact of applications associated with high intensity science.
- Assess the status of laser engineering and technology in the United States associated with high intensity science.
- Review the framework in which high intensity science and the development of related technology is conducted in the United States. Such review should take place in an international context, with efforts in Europe to serve as a benchmark. In doing so, the committee is to address the following questions:
- Is there an explicit or implicit national strategy for stewarding high intensity science in the United States? If not, can one be formulated and if so what would be an appropriate structure for such a strategy?
- Is there a case for a large-scale initiative to coordinate, accelerate, and steward high intensity science at peak and average power well beyond the current state of the art?
- Is there a compelling science case for the construction of a forefront U.S. facility or a staged sequence of facilities in high intensity science at peak powers of 1 petawatt to 1 exawatt? If so, what should the parameters be and what capabilities should be included in such a facility or sequence of facilities?
- Is high peak power laser technology development in the United States being well stewarded? If not, what roadmap should the United States follow for coherently supporting the development of this technology and what new technologies, if any, should be pursued?
The concept for this study was developed by the Committee on Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Sciences (CAMOS), a standing activity of the National Academies that operates under the auspices of the Board on Physics and Astronomy. An important part of CAMOS’s responsibilities is to monitor developments in the atomic, molecular, and optical (AMO) sciences and to develop white papers for potential National Academies’ studies that would address issues arising in that research community. CAMOS began developing this project in 2011 and its principal focus was to help the United States develop its advanced, high-intensity laser science and technology capacities. Those efforts were motivated by three factors: (1) recent breakthroughs in ultrafast high-power lasers and the underlying technology; (2) nearly a decade of community network building in Europe with programs like Laserlab-Europe,1 Photonics21,2 and Horizon 2020,3 taking the advice recommended to U.S. agencies in the 2002 SAUUL report;4 and (3) initiation of the first stage of the Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI) project to build several petawatt facilities at a few key sites in Europe.5
Following consultation with the Academies, four agencies agreed to support the study: the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), and two Offices of the Department of Energy Office of Science. The Academies worked with these sponsors to develop a statement of task. A study committee of 15 experts in the field was formed to conduct a study responsive to the charge. The committee included experts from universities, national laboratories, small research laser companies, and large companies in the laser industry.
4 P. Bucksbaum, et al., 2002, The Science and Applications of Ultrafast Ultra-intense Lasers.
In response to this charge, the scope of the current report is broader than SAUUL, covering not only the highest-powered lasers but also high-intensity lasers at or just below the petawatt class that can nonetheless create high-intensity environments, often with infrastructure that can be supported by a university or regional center.
To address this task our committee met five times in-person, visited five separate laboratories, and conducted over thirty teleconferences. The first meeting, held in Washington, D.C., allowed the committee to speak directly with representatives of interested government agencies and the Administration. The second meeting was held in Palo Alto, California and featured visits to the SLAC National Accel-
erator Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). The third meeting was conducted by a subset of the committee and was held at the ELI-Beamlines site in Dolní Břežany and featured discussions with laboratory personnel, ELI leadership, and European laser science and technology leaders. The fourth meeting, held in Rochester, New York, included a visit to the Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE). The fifth and final in-person meeting of the committee was held in Irvine, California, at which the committee focused on coming to consensus on its report. The committee used not only its in-person meetings to gather input, but also organized many teleconferences featuring discussions with experts from universities, laboratories, and industry, both domestic and foreign. Many of these included presentations from scientists, engineers, and laboratory directors engaged in research development of high-intensity lasers and applications in the United States and throughout the world (for example in Figure P.1). The committee also investigated research areas in high-intensity lasers and wrote research summaries. The committee requested input from the community and maintained a website and email for this purpose.
All of these meetings, interactions, discussions, and information-gathering activities, in addition to the knowledge and perspectives of the members themselves, afforded the committee with a broad and comprehensive picture of the state and possible directions of high-intensity, ultrafast laser science and technology in the United States and abroad. With this knowledge we wrote our report and constructed our consensus findings and recommendations. It is the committee’s belief that the agencies and offices identified in this report’s recommendations are best positioned to decide how to effectuate them.
We believe our report provides U.S. policymakers, the community, and industry with the basis from which to build the future development of this strategically important technical area. We anticipate that the historical snapshot of the state of play will also be valuable for future policymakers and program planners.
The committee thanks the many experts with which it conversed and who attended the committee’s meetings, in-person or remotely. The committee is particularly grateful to its gracious hosts at SLAC, LBNL, LLNL, LLE, and ELI-Beamlines. We also thank our sponsors at the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Department of Energy, and Office of Naval Research for their support of and engagement with this activity.
Philip Bucksbaum, Chair
Committee on Opportunities in the Science, Applications, and Technology of Intense Ultrafast Lasers
Acknowledgment of Reviewers
This Consensus Study Report was reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in making each published report as sound as possible and to ensure that it meets the institutional standards for quality, objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.
We thank the following individuals for their review of this report:
Gerald Blazey, Northern Illinois University,
Robert Byer, NAS/NAE, Stanford University,
Michael Ettenberg, NAE, Dolce Technologies,
Erich P. Ippen, NAS/NAE, Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
Wayne Knox, University of Rochester, and
George Sutton, NAE, SPARTA (retired).
Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations of this report nor did they see the final draft before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Thomas Romesser, NAE, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems (retired). He was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with the standards of
the National Academies and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content rests entirely with the authoring committee and the National Academies.