February 26, 2019
During her recent visit to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Nobel laureate Donna Strickland toured NIF, which benefits every day from her award-winning research that was foundational to today’s ultra-high-peak-power laser systems.
Strickland, a one-time LLNL staff scientist, won the 2018 Nobel Prize in physics for groundbreaking work on chirped-pulse amplification (CPA), which enabled technologies such as NIF’s Advanced Radiographic Capability (ARC) laser and the High-repetition-rate Advanced Petawatt Laser (HAPLS).
Strickland, a physics and astronomy professor at Canada’s University of Waterloo, and her mentor, French physicist Gérard Mourou, were named Nobel Prize laureates on Oct. 2 for their work in developing CPA, to amplify ultrashort laser pulses up to the petawatt (quadrillion-watt) level.
CPA is also the underlying technology for laser eye surgery and ultrafast cameras used for imaging molecular processes. Although her LLNL tenure was short, her impact is enduring, Lab Director Bill Goldstein said while introducing Strickland’s Director’s Distinguished Lecturer Series address on Feb. 5.
“CPA is an advance that is at once incredibly profound and at the same time incredibly elegant, and has made the path possible to intense lasers and all their unique applications, from medicine to scientific discovery,” he said. “At this Laboratory, it has been a critical ingredient in advanced laser systems, starting with the first petawatt, demonstrated here at the Lab, right up to this year’s delivery of an exceptional high-average-power petawatt system to the ELI Beamlines facility in Prague.”
Strickland discovered that by stretching, amplifying and then compressing laser pulses, the intensity could be increased without damaging the amplifying material.
“There we were in the 1980s — we had big energy lasers, but we couldn’t put short pulses down them, and that’s why we needed CPA,” Strickland said. “I like how Bill very nicely called it elegant – he didn’t want to say simple, but that’s what it is. I always like to say that what I built was a laser hammer.”
Later in the day, Strickland received a VIP tour of NIF — the largest and most energetic laser facility ever built — from NIF Principal Associate Director Jeff Wisoff, Director Mark Herrmann, Operations Manager Bruno Van Wonterghem, and Patricia Falcone, LLNL deputy director for science and technology.
She also received briefings on NIF optics from Tayyab Suratwala; additive manufactured laser glass from Rebecca Dylla-Spears; HAPLS from Constantin Haefner; fiber technologies from Jay Dawson; and telescopes and optics from Vincent Riot and Michael Schneider.
While in the Bay Area, Strickland also delivered an address to a joint meeting of the NIF User Group and the Jupiter Laser Facility (JLF) User Group, held at the Bella Rosa Event Center in Livermore. And she spoke Feb. 3 during the SPIE’s Photonics West conference in San Francisco.
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