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October 25, 2011

New era opens on Omega Laser Facility

lasersA landmark has been reached at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics. The Omega Laser Facility has been used to measure a nuclear scattering cross-section with more precision than previously achieved with particle accelerators.

But in many ways, the data are the least important part of the experiment. “This is the first time a high-energy-density laser facility has been used to advance the field of nuclear physics,” says deputy director David Meyerhofer.

Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rochester, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory collaborated on the project and published the results in a recent Physical Review Letters.

Meyerhofer says it is difficult for accelerators to measure nuclear scattering cross-sections at lower temperatures (e.g., the temperature of the sun) than what is typically reached in particle accelerators. The Omega laser, by contrast, was able to provide more data points and more precise measurements.
“This is the first step in using the Omega Laser Facility to measure cross-sections that are relevant to the way the sun works,” says Meyerhofer.

The researchers believe that variations of the technique will soon emerge, leading to innovative experiments into other fundamental nuclear processes.
“The University of Rochester has had a long and productive collaboration with the excellent MIT team, led by Dr. Richard Petrasso” says Robert McCrory,  director of the Laser Lab. “This new ground-breaking work in nuclear science resulted from the joint effort of the MIT, Rochester, and Lawrence Livermore teams on the Omega laser. High energy density laser facilities will open new frontiers in science.” Read the full story at

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