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A laser infrastructure of a power unique in the world for extreme physics This new scientific infrastructure will house the most powerful laser ever built. It will be dedicated to laser research. The preparatory phase of the project, run jointly by the Applied Optics Laboratory (LOA), ENSTA ParisTech, the École Polytechnique and the CNRS, is approaching completion. Gérard Mourou, director of the Institute of Extreme Light (ILE), is the instigator of the project.
ELI (Extreme Light Infrastructure) will concentrate a large quantity of light energy in the shortest possible timescale (femtoseconds, 1/1015 of a second) and in the smallest possible space (roughly one micron = 10-6 m) to obtain a light strength never previously obtained on Earth (200 PW, equivalent to 100,000 times the power produced by all the Earth's electricity Earth installations).
It will be an outstanding aid for the fundamental study of laser matter interaction at a level of intensity that has never before been equalled. The intensity levels reached will be enough to boil the vacuum and create fundamental particles. They could recreate the conditions that were prevalent just a few milliseconds after the big bang.
ELI could enable us to analyse ultra-rapid phenomena occurring at an attosecond-zeptosecond level. It will also aim to promote relativistic engineering leading to the development of very compact accelerators delivering very high energy particles and photons. This interaction between light and matter will enable us to study fields that are as yet unexplored. ELI applications will also affect materials science and more basic applications such as the study of the vacuum structure.
These new technologies will have a significant social impact in medicine with imaging and cancer treatment, in materials science with the potential to understand and slow down the ageing mechanism in nuclear reactors and in the environment by offering new methods for treating nuclear waste. ELI is a partnership between 13 European countries.