Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has built and commissioned the highest peak power laser diode arrays worldwide. The total peak power of the arrays is 3.2 megawatts (MW). LLNL partnered with Lasertel Inc., a member of the Finmeccanica Group. Lasertel combined novel micro-optics with advanced semiconductor laser technology.
The diode arrays, which are currently under construction at LLNL, are a key part of the High-Repetition-Rate Advanced Petawatt Laser System (HAPLS) that will ultimately be installed in the European Union’s Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI) Beamlines facility being built in the Czech Republic. HAPLS is designed to generate peak powers greater than one petawatt (1 quadrillion watts, or 1015) at a repetition rate of 10 Hertz. Each pulse will last 30 femtoseconds (30 quadrillionths of a second). Unlike currently used flashlamps that can fire a maximum of once per second that serve as the primary pump source for petawatt systems, in HAPLS, the diode arrays produce kilojoule laser pulses for the final power amplifier 10 times per second.
The team had to devise technologies that transfer less heat than flashlamps and remove the heat at faster rates to lessen the time between laser shots. LLNL developed a completely new and now patented pulsed-power system that draws electricity from the grid and converts it to precisely shaped, extremely high-current, electrical pulses. The power supply can drive up to 40,000 amps.
The installation and integration of the HAPLS into the ELI Beamlines facility is scheduled to begin in 2017. The technology will enable cutting-edge research in chemistry, quantum physics, advanced imaging, particle acceleration, and biophysics, in addition to industrial processes and national security applications such as laser peening and laser fusion.