The University of Rochester's Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) will receive $72.6 million in funding, both for current operations and construction of its new, four-beam extension facility, through a bill signed Nov. 19 by President George W. Bush.
The $72.6 million, including $25 million for the new Omega EP facility, is part of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act for 2006.
"The Laboratory for Laser Energetics has played a leading, national role in efforts to develop nuclear fusion as a reliable energy source and in the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile stewardship program," said University President Joel Seligman. "This funding keeps this unique facility at the forefront of high-technology research, training, and education for the nation."
"We're very pleased to have Presidential and Congressional support for a program that not only does groundbreaking research, but also provides a very strong stimulus to the local economy," said Robert L. McCrory, director and CEO of the laboratory. "Our Congressional delegation, represented by Representatives Kuhl, Reynolds, Slaughter, and Walsh, has been unflinching in their support of the world-class facility at the University. We thank Rochester-area members of Congress for their bipartisan efforts to secure funding for the project."
Laboratory activities are estimated to have a direct economic impact of more than $61 million, he said.
First opened in 1970, the facility is home to the world's most power laser, Omega, which currently releases more than 100 times the total power output of the nation in a billionth of a second. The facility serves a particularly crucial role as the nation's main fusion program while the U.S. Department of Energy builds the National Ignition Facility (NIF). The laboratory employs more than 425 people, including students conducting advanced research.
The new 82,000-square foot Robert L. Sproull Center for Ultra High Intensity Laser Research now being completed will extend Omega's capabilities to include a "petawatt" facility, meaning the laser will produce 1 million billion watts of power. The extended performance facility will allow LLE to continue at the cutting edge of fusion science by making new experiments possible, such as modeling the very young universe, understanding the quantum world, and studying relativistic laser-matter interactions. The enhanced facility also would test a new concept called a "fast ignitor," which may be able to dramatically increase the energy derived from a fusion target, providing a possible new avenue toward clean, renewable fusion power. The new laser is scheduled to begin operation in 2007.