Scientists from the nation's pre-eminent Federal laboratories will visit the University of Rochester periodically during the next four years to conduct experiments using the giant Omega laser.
Personnel from the Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories will use the laser for experiments that require ultra-high temperatures and pressures. Usually these scientists use the Nova laser at Lawrence Livermore in California, but Nova is being replaced by an even larger laser, the National Ignition Facility (NIF). Until the NIF is completed in 2001, the University's Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) will offer the premier facility in the nation for experiments examining matter under extreme conditions.
The 60-beam Omega laser is designed for basic experiments that scientists conduct to learn more about fusion, where atoms are brought together under intense temperatures and pressures to produce a tremendous amount of energy. Such conditions are found naturally inside stars as well as in nuclear weapons. That's why a few of the experiments the Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore teams conduct using Omega will be classified, as those scientists seek to understand the properties of nuclear weapons physics and the behavior of aging nuclear weapons materials in the absence of underground testing.
The University's research program at LLE will continue as usual, with the normal array of physics-related experiments; experiments by the visiting teams will be squeezed into the normal schedule. University scientists will not conduct any of the classified experiments; all research conducted on campus by University scientists, including those at LLE, is published in scientific and scholarly journals and is available to the public, as it has always been.
"Our basic research into fusion as an unlimited source of energy will continue at the same pace as before," says Robert McCrory, LLE director. "At the same time, we're proud to be of assistance during construction of the NIF."