Megascience class XCELS project

Exawatt Center for Extreme Light Studies (XCELS)

The optical parametric chirped-pulse amplification (OPCPA) technology created at IAP RAS is the basis of the Russian XCELS project intended for the construction of the International center for extreme light fields studies based on a subexawatt laser. The project was approved in 2011 by the Government Commission for high technologies and innovations among the six megascience projects and should be implemented before the end of this decade.

Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences A. M. Sergeev and foreign member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Chairman of the XCELS international advisory committee Gerard Mourou.

The source of extreme light radiation in XCELS should be a 12-channel laser complex with a total peak power of up to 200 PW. Each of the channels is built according to the unified scheme of multi-stage parametric amplification, the prototype of which is the PEARL facility. Optical pulses in the channels will be phased with accuracy much less than the period of the light wave, which will provide a light intensity of more than 1025 W/cm2 during focusing.

To achieve a pulse power of more than 15 PW, a pulse with an energy of up to 400 J, a duration of about 25 fs, and a repetition rate of one shot per a few hours is generated in each channel. The aperture of the parametric amplification end stages in DKDP crystals is 30 × 30 cm. Each of the parametric amplification channels is pumped by the second harmonic of a Nd:glass laser amplifier with an aperture of 30 × 30 cm. The fundamental and second harmonic radiation energies are 3 and 2 kJ, respectively, for a pulse duration of 1.5 ns.

The total radiation power 200 PW is more than two orders of magnitude higher than today's world record. This circumstance will ensure the superiority of the setup being created and the scientific and technological leadership of Russia not only at the time of its creation, but also for many years to come and will permit the implementation of a unique research program in the following areas:

  • creation of ultrashort coherent and incoherent radiation sources with record brightness in the X-ray and gamma ranges based on the radiation of ultrarelativistic particles moving in superstrong fields and their use for diagnosing the processes and structures with picometer spatial and subfemtosecond temporal resolution;
  • development of multi-stage compact laser accelerators of electrons with energies of more than 100 GeV, using the principles of laser-plasma acceleration to develop promising accelerator complexes with particle energies of 1 to 10 TeV;
  • creation of compact laser accelerators of ions with energies of 0.1 to 10 GeV and the development of their applications for X-ray diagnostics and medical science;
  • obtaining and studying the extreme states of a substance arising under the action of ultrarelativistic laser fields; modeling of astrophysical and early cosmological phenomena in the laboratory;
  • creation of sources of electromagnetic waves of attosecond (10–18 s) and subattosecond duration based on the generation of high harmonics of laser radiation and supercontinuum in the process of nonlinear interaction of high-power femtosecond laser pulses with matter; development of methods for using such sources in fundamental metrology and diagnostics of fast processes in a substance;
  • creation of a source of electromagnetic radiation with a peak power of more than 1 EW (1018 W) based on the interaction of multipetawatt laser pulses with a plasma in the ultrarelativistic mode;
  • study of the space-time structure of the empty space when it is sounded by radiation with an intensity of more than 1025 W/cm2; examination of the quantum electrodynamics phenomena in extremely strong laser fields, including the creation of matter and antimatter using radiation;
  • studies in nuclear optics as a new field of science based on the use of secondary sources of gamma-ray emission for the excitation and diagnostics of intranuclear processes.