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Laboratory for Laser Energetics opens doors on pivotal building expansion

OPEN FOR BUSINESS: Totaling 66,600-square-foot, the new three-floor building houses 15,500 square feet of laboratory space, plus 2,900 square feet of collaboration space. (University of Rochester Laboratory for Laser Energetics photo / Jacob Deats)

The first major addition to LLE in more than two decades includes clean room facilities to advance next-generation laser science and technologies.

The University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) has completed construction on a $46 million building expansion that began in August 2022. The opening of the addition marks a significant milestone for the national research facility, which was last expanded in 2003 to house the OMEGA EP laser.

Totaling 66,600-square-foot, the new three-floor building, which boasts LEED Silver certification, houses 15,500 square feet of laboratory space with seating for 132 LLE staff and students, plus 2,900 square feet of collaboration space with seating for an additional 117 people.

Interior of the Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) building expansion.
LEED-ING THE WAY: Interior of the new Laboratory for Laser Energetics’ 66,000-square-foot expansion, which obtained LEED Silver certification for sustainable design from the US Green Building Council. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

The new space will enable construction of the AMICA laser system, prototyping of the NSF OPAL lasers, and creation of next-generation targets, diagnostics, and optics for national security efforts. Low-vibration class-1000 clean room space will enable LLE to achieve theoretical resolution on microfabrication and high-resolution instrumentation. The building also houses the largest of its kind optical coating facility, helping to ensure a US domestic supply chain to support work on the world’s largest lasers.

“LLE’s history underscores the vital role that our country’s leading research institutions play in the development of new technology and the impact our work can have on the nation’s economic growth,” University President Sarah Mangelsdorf said during the building ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 31. “The facility that we’re dedicating today—two years in the making, longer than that in planning—is a really important project that will help us advance the work of LLE on all of these fronts,” she added.

LLE building expansion highlights

Construction on the project was managed by University of Rochester Planning, Design, and Construction in partnership with architect CannonDesign; site and civil engineers Passero Associates; construction manager LeChase Construction; and commissioning agent M/E Engineering.

Low-vibration, class-1000 clean room at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics building expansion.
KEEP IT CLEAN: The low-vibration class-1000 clean room space at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics building expansion. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

The work entailed 224,000 on-site construction hours with a peak crew size of 91 individuals. Eight unions participated, with an additional 30 companies—all based in New York state—providing goods and services.

The addition was fully funded by the University, which increased its original funding amount to add features and capabilities to enhance the unique research, education, and workforce and economic development made possible by LLE.

“LLE is at the forefront of research and education in fusion, in materials at the extreme conditions typically only found at the centers of planets and stars, and in laboratory astrophysics,” says Chris Deeney, the director of LLE. During the ribbon cutting, he added, “This exciting present and inspirational future for LLE resulted in the University sponsoring this new building.”

Group of about a dozen people standing in front of the LLE building expansion getting ready to cut a ribbon.
A CUT ABOVE: Ribbon-cutting attendees included (l to r) Austin Ponce, regional director for US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand; Bill Moehle, town supervisor for Brighton; Vincent Esposito, senior vice president for regional economic development at Empire State Development and assistant secretary for upstate intergovernmental affairs under New York Governor Kathy Hochul; Bill Goodrich, CEO of LeChase Construction; Mark Suriano, deputy assistant deputy administrator, NNSA; Chris Deeney, LLE director; Joseph Morelle, US representative; Sarah Mangelsdorf, University of Rochester president; Quincy Allen and Larry Kessler, members of the University’s Board of Trustees; Sarah Clark, New York State assemblymember; John Kelly, member of the University’s board; and Susan Hughes-Smith, Monroe County legislator from district 14. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

Elected officials voice support for expanded Laser Lab

US Senator Charles Schumer: “The new three-floor tall expansion to the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics will further bolster our national security, and boost the LLE’s energy research that is critical to our regional economy. I’m proud to have secured the vital federal funding each year that keeps the LLE and its 450 workers in business to advance America’s energy leadership, protect our global technological competitiveness, and spur millions in local economic activity for Rochester’s optics and photonics industry. This expansion will double down on the LLE as a regional economic engine that employs the brightest scientists from our community and across the country while ensuring the US remains at the forefront of technological advancements.”

US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand: “The University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics is home to some of the largest and most capable lasers at any academic institution in the world and supports critical scientific missions to support our national and economic security. LLE is a vital research asset that I could not be more proud to support, and I have delivered millions in federal funding over the years to support LLE’s groundbreaking research. Congratulations to the University of Rochester and everyone at LLE on this historic opening. I look forward to seeing this facility in action and I’ll keep fighting to make sure that LLE has the resources it needs to remain a global leader in scientific innovation.”

Congressman Joe Morelle: “At its core, science ignites a wonder within us and a curiosity that spurs a relentless pursuit of understanding, and that sense of wonder and curiosity thrives here at the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE). As a member of the House Appropriations Committee in Washington—and a self-proclaimed amateur scientist and discoverer—I’m proud to use my role to support LLE’s mission and ensure it has the support and resources it needs to thrive. I’m grateful to University of Rochester President Sarah Mangelsdorf and LLE Director Chris Deeney for your years of friendship, and I look forward to continuing our work together to expand this amazing facility even further.”

Assemblymember Harry Bronson: “The expansion of the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) will be transformative for our region, inviting important breakthroughs and furthering research, as well as creating jobs. As Chair of Labor, I also thank University of Rochester for working with union labor and local companies for the construction of the LLE.”

Senator Jeremy Cooney: “University of Rochester’s nationally renowned Laboratory for Laser Energetics has long been on the cutting edge of our country’s technological innovations. I’m thrilled for the impact this expansion will have, both to allow the lab to continue their groundbreaking research, and for the job growth it will create across the Rochester area.”

Assemblymember Sarah Clark: “As a long time proponent of the Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) at the University of Rochester, today marks a highly anticipated day with the grand opening of the lab’s 66,000 square foot building expansion. This latest project will ensure the LLE continues to lead amongst its peers in energy research and innovation. The LLE’s impact locally, nationally, and across the globe is truly immeasurable. Thank you to all involved in bringing this project to fruition; I look forward to seeing what the LLE does next.”

Empire State Development President, CEO, and Commissioner Hope Knight: “Congratulations to the University of Rochester on the official grand opening of its Laboratory for Laser Energetics. This innovative facility further reinforces the U of R’s global reputation as a leader in forward-thinking discoveries. New York State remains committed to supporting cutting-edge R&D investment and building on our reputation as a global leader in next-generation energy industry applications and technologies- efforts that are serving as a catalyst for economic growth.”

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