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December 15, 2019
SCIENCE & TECH

World first: Magurele laser reaches 10 PetaWatts, highest power in the world. ELI-NP project manager: Today, a dream has come true

The Magurele laser, a project co-financed with 311 million euro in European grants, has reached 10 PetaWatts, the highest power in the world.

“A world first at the High-Power Laser System (HPLS) project at the Extreme Light Infrastructure – Nuclear Physics Centre: the power of 10 PetaWatts was reached on March 7. The Romanian Government has supported this complex project, the pan-European ELI (Extreme Light Infrastructure), one of the most important European research facilities, not only because it represents a significant scientific development in the field of high-powered lasers at global level, but also for the fact that it is built with financial resources allocated through the Regional Development Operational Programme, to which national funds are added,” the Government pointed out, organising on Wednesday an event to mark this world first.

That is “a tenth of the entire Sun’s power on Earth concentrated in a ray of light,” according to ELI-NP project manager Nicolae Zamfir.

An event was organized to mark this moment on the same day.

“This is a great day for us, an important day. We are unveiling the results of the power tests of the ELI-NP [Extreme Light Infrastructure – Nuclear Physics] laser system at Magurele, and I can tell you that it has reached more power than we have dreamed of – 10.88 petawatts, or ten millions of billions of Watts; a tenth of the entire Sun’s power on Earth concentrated in a ray of light; a great scientific achievement that is a world first. With this laser we can create new phenomena, watch the behavior of matter under extreme conditions unheard of so far on Earth, but probably existing elsewhere in the Universe, and we are attempting to unravel some of the mysteries of the Universe. Today, a dream has come true that started less than a decade ago, when under a political decision Romania was to build, to join this world race to achieve the most powerful laser in the world. It was a dream of researchers from all over the world. They would all dream of there being such an instrument. Ten years ago, the greatest power was under one petawatt. Meanwhile, the field has exploded; a race ensued in which many of the developed countries participated. Today, there are over ten labs capable of generating more than a petawatt of lase power. There is a serious competitor in South Korea. We have over ten today,” Zamfir said.

Laser team leader Ioan Dancus indicated that the ELI-NP is currently capable of producing the most powerful light pool on the planet.

“This is the accomplishment of a complex and complete team. (…) We used the largest sapphire crystal with titanium ions ever grown on Earth, a crystal that is 20 centimeters in diameter (…) For this system to work an incredible infrastructure is needed. The entire laser system, along with the experiments, is placed on an anti-vibration plate that completely disengages us from external vibrations. From a technical point of view we are dealing with a fantastic system,” Dancus explained.

According to him, the system contains thousands of optical and electronic components.

“We will use this laser to respond to two of our great calls: curiosity – to better understand what happens to the Universe around us and creativity – to develop something that will help humanity live better lives,” he said.

Education Minister Ecaterina Andronescu says the Magurele project undoubtedly represents a very important moment in the history of science.

“All the stages we’ve been through have not been easy at all. There were times when we almost did not think we would get here (…) If I’m glad for something I’m glad for the younger generation because it has what to learn here and whom to learn from, and I am convinced that it will not be long before the results. Romania, through the research here, will gain renewed visibility, will have renewed scientific production and, undoubtedly, by the start of the project, this is an international one,” the minister said.

In his turn, Minister of Research and Innovation Nicolae Hurduc congratulated the Magurele team of researchers and said that their achievement demonstrates that Romanian scientists can achieve results that will place them at the highest levels in the world.

“I want to congratulate first of all the team at Magurele alongside the Thales Group on this great success, which at this moment is making you the best in the world. Behind this achievement there is hard working, a lot of tenacity, all of which has brought us to where we can report the most powerful laser in the world, which is fortunately found in Romania (…) I am happy because this laser is in Romania and because it demonstrates that Romania is able to do very important things despite many naysayers. This performance demonstrates that scientists in Romania, researchers, can get results that will place Romania at the highest levels in the world,” the minister said.

Ilfov County Council President Marian Petrache talked about the importance of this moment as well.

“I would like to congratulate the Magurele team. The Gods did their duty; it is up to us, the mortals, to be able to benefit from what they give us. That is entirely up to us. This is not an event that is important to Romania or Europe alone; I believe this is a very important event in the history of mankind,” he said.

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