Turning the Power Up
In a landmark step for Israeli science, the most powerful laser in the Middle East was installed at Tel Aviv University’s Raymond and Beverly Sackler School of Physics and Astronomy, promising significant advances in medical, defense and other applications. The laser, part of a new laboratory designed specially to house it, was partially funded by the Mortimer B. Zuckerman STEM Leadership Program. The $100 million program provides support to faculty members, post-docs and PhD candidates, who with form the next generation of US and Israel scientific leaders.
Dr. Ishay Pomerantz, Zuckerman STEM Leadership Scholar and Head of the High Intensity Laser Lab at TAU, hopes that his laser research “will lead to dramatically lowering the cost and size of laser-based particle accelerators, eventually leading to more widespread use of intense laser systems for academic research.
Dr. Pomerantz is a member of the Department of Particle Physics at the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Faculty of Exact Sciences and of TAU’s Center for Light Interaction. He was recently recruited to TAU from the University of Texas at Austin with support from the Blavatnik President's Faculty Recruitment Discretionary Fund, which is part of the Blavatnik Initiative.
The new laser machine at TAU can deliver laser pulses of over 20 terawatts in peak power; one terawatt is equal to one trillion watts. “For comparison, about 1,000 times the total average power delivered to the whole state of Israel at any given time,” explains Pomerantz.
The high-power laser could lead to applications that require accelerated particles, like treatments for cancer and for security applications. “Today, these applications are not easily implemented because conventional accelerators are very large and expensive,” says Pomerantz. “Our hope is that by understanding how strong light particles interact with matter, we can bring laser-based particle accelerators to places where they are needed.”
The laser system and new lase laboratory at TAU took two years of planning, one year of construction and six weeks of assembly. Experimental activities will be conducted both at TAU and at facilities abroad, thus creating opportunities for academic exchange, one of the goals of the Zuckerman Program.