Thales, back in 2013, joined the Extreme Light Infrastructure for Nuclear Physics (ELI-NP) programme to develop the High Power Laser System (HPLS), the most powerful laser system in its field worldwide. Under this first contract, Thales is providing the National Institute of Physics and Nuclear Engineering (IFIN-HH) in Romania with a laser system delivering 2x10 PetaWatt (20 million billion Watt) of power — more than any other laser system to date. This laser will support research in nuclear physics and help advance human understanding of the physics of matter.
On the ELI-NP programme, Thales is responsible for the development of a complex laser system delivering unprecedented levels of power. Thales’s local teams in Romania will provide logistics support at the IFIN-HH facility, working closely with the customer. The programme has now reached a major milestone, with the first arm of the laser system operating for the first time at a power level of 3 PetaWatt.
With this phase now complete, Thales succeeded to install all components of the 10-PetaWatt laser system and validate the engineering work in progress since 2013 to provide the customer with the most powerful laser in Europe. Once commissioned in 2019, the HPLS laser will be the most powerful laser system in the world.
In 2019, the Laser Beam Transportation System (LBTS) will also be installed to deliver the output energy under vacuum to the interaction chambers in the experiment area. This new contract, worth €19.8 million, has been awarded to Thales. The complexity of the LBTS system resides in the fact that it is designed to transport beams of large size (metres), high energy (> 200 J) and short pulse duration (< 25.10–15 sec.) under vacuum with micron-scale accuracy and, at the same time, maintain the high quality of the laser beam after propagation.
To meet these requirements, Thales will take advantage of the experience already gained on this programme, with the recent integration of the meter size critical optical components in the vacuum chambers of the HPLS and its complex-systems expertise, in particular for the development of a supervision system to distribute the beam alternately to different interaction chambers, with a directional accuracy of better than 10 microns.
This new contract was signed by Thales in partnership with SEIV and Alsyom, subsidiaries of the Alcen Group based in the Nouvelle Aquitaine region in southwest of France. The two partners will design, manufacture and install the entire vacuum system, including the transport chambers and the pumps used to achieve vacuum. The Laser Beam Transport System, like the HPLS laser, will be the only system of its kind in the world and will be commissioned in a record time over a period of a few months in mid-2019.
This new contract, awarded after an international competitive selection process, is a further endorsement of our Romanian customer’s satisfaction with HPLS laser system development and its confidence in Thales’s ability to deliver this next phase of the programme successfully.