EP-OPAL (OMEGA EP-coupled optical parametric amplifier lines)

NSF Funds Design of World-Leading EP-OPAL Laser Facility

The U.S. National Science Foundation is pleased to announce four Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure-1 (Mid-scale RI-1) awards for Fiscal Year 2023-2024 that will continue the agency’s support of cutting-edge science and engineering research.

The University of Rochester has been awarded nearly $18 million over three years to design and prototype key technologies for the OMEGA Extended Performance Optical Parametric Amplifier Line (EP-OPAL), a newly proposed facility dedicated to the study of ultrahigh-intensity laser-matter interactions that would be built at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics upon completion of the design project. EP-OPAL aims to enable the U.S. to recover and maintain its status as a world leader in the field of high-intensity laser science via design and prototyping. Technology developments over the last decade have enabled high intensity-lasers to promote both basic and use-inspired science across a broad range of problems in physics and astronomy, like particle acceleration, advanced light sources and laser-driven nuclear physics.

EP-OPAL is envisioned to provide laser capabilities beyond those currently available internationally, helping to re-establish U.S. leadership in the field of high-peak-power lasers. This project will lay the groundwork for constructing a facility that would house the highest-power laser system in the world. It would complement the NSF Zettawatt-Equivalent Ultrashort pulse laser System facility at the University of Michigan that is about to come online, as well international facilities like the Extreme Light Infrastructure.

The Mid-scale RI-1 awards support the design and implementation of research infrastructure — including testbeds, equipment, cyberinfrastructure, large-scale data sets and personnel — whose total project costs exceed NSF’s Major Research Instrumentation Program but are under $20 million. By supporting cutting-edge research, NSF and the awarded research facilities will allow scientists and engineers to test new theories and questions in a novel setting, pushing science forward.

The four awardees chosen exemplify the best of American science and engineering. Their design and construction of research infrastructure will deliver results that bolster national security, shed new light on fascinating discoveries and lead to innovations that will benefit the American public.

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