The Michigan Engineer News Center

UM’s HERCULES laser facility receives $1 million as part of LaserNetUS

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NERS Professor Karl Krushelnick is leading UM’s participation in a new collaborative research network dedicated to high-intensity laser research. With $6.8 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, LaserNetUS includes five other universities and three national laboratories.

UM will receive $1 million to make its HERCULES laser – currently the world’s highest-intensity laser at 20 sextillion (2×1022) watts per square centimeter – available to external researchers. The goal is to expand the growing research field and improve U.S. competitiveness.

“While experiments with HERCULES have made many discoveries over the past decade, the facility doesn’t run as much as it could,” said Krushelnick, who also heads the University’s Center for Ultrafast Optical Science. LaserNetUS will provide new opportunities for investigators throughout the United States to conduct high-intensity laser research across a broad range of application areas.

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Portrait of Jennifer Melms

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The electrons absorb laser light and set up “momentum combs” (the hills) spanning the energy valleys within the material (the red line). When the electrons have an energy allowed by the quantum mechanical structure of the material—and also touch the edge of the valley—they emit light. This is why some teeth of the combs are bright and some are dark. By measuring the emitted light and precisely locating its source, the research mapped out the energy valleys in a 2D crystal of tungsten diselenide. Credit: Markus Borsch, Quantum Science Theory Lab, University of Michigan.

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