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Helium exposed to short intense laser pulses in the IR and VUV

Project HELIUM
Scientific Discipline Radiation-matter interactions
Principal Investigator(s) K T Taylor
  • Queen's University Belfast, UK
  • Max Planck Institüt für Kernphysik, Germany


The two most important advances in laser technology of recent years have been:

  1. The production of few-cycle high-intensity laser pulses from the Ti:sapphire laser operating at a laser wavelength of ~800 nm.
  2. The use of a new Free Electron Laser at DESY near Hamburg to produce pulses of laser light of extremely high-intensity (unprecedented by some 10 orders of magnitude) in the VUV i.e. at laser wavelengths of at present ~13 nm.

The primary aim of the collaborating European experimental and theoretical groups participating in this proposal is to increase scientific understanding of how radiation interacts with matter. To this end the helium atom exposed to a high intensity laser pulse is of central and unrivalled importance. This system -a fundamental quantum mechanical few-particle one- can now be complementarily explored to extremely high precision by theory (grand-challenge computation) and laboratory experiment.

A crucial objective of the present proposal is to exploit the complementary high-precision experimental – theoretical opportunities presented by the helium atom system in order to quantitatively characterise the few-cycle Ti:sapphire pulses as well as the high-intensity VUV pulses that are both newly-available. Such pulse characterisation (shape, intensity distribution, duration etc) is vital for the pulses to be appropriately exploited in a truly scientific fashion in order to make possible major advances in many fields ranging from Chemistry through Biology and Medicine to Engineering.

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