Central Laser Facility
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Science

The Central Laser Facility carries out research using lasers to investigate a broad range of science areas, spanning physics, chemistry and biology. Research topics range from investigating complex biological reactions within cells to examining new ideas for future energy production.

Many of the research groups working with us are supported by other research councils, including EPSRC, BBSRC, MRC and the Royal Society.

Our suite of laser systems allow us to focus light to extreme intensities, to generate exceptionally short pulses of light, and to image extremely small features.

Extreme intensities

Laser plasma interaction using the Vulcan laser
Laser plasma interaction

When light from the Central Laser Facility's two high power laser systems, Vulcan and Astra Gemini, is focused onto a target, the extreme intensities rip electrons from the target's atoms, generating high energy plasmas, X-rays and beams of energetic particles. Experiments on these lasers are researching fusion energy, electron and ion acceleration, laboratory astrophysics and plasma physics.

Exceptionally fast

Artemis ultra-fast X-ray facility
Artemis

The ultrashort laser pulses produced on Artemis and ULTRA are used to strobe the motion of electrons and ions during chemical reactions and phase changes. These facilities produce femtosecond laser pulses at tuneable wavelengths from the infrared to the extreme ultraviolet to build up movies of molecular rearrangement in liquids, gases and solids.

Incredibly small

Nanoprobe laser lab
Nanoprobe imaging using OCTOPUS

The microscopy techniques of the OCTOPUS (link opens in a new window) (link opens in a new window) facility allow incredibly precise measurements of biological samples. The microscopes are able to detect even single molecules fluorescing and can image molecular processes within cells to resolutions of tens of nanometres.

 

 Developing new laser technologies

DiPOLE project laser system
DiPOLE

To ensure its facilities stay world-leading, the CLF has a program of developing new laser technologies and upgrades to the facilities. The pioneering OPCPA method was developed at the CLF and forms the basis of the proposed 10 Petawatt upgrade (link opens in a new window) to Vulcan. The CLF's new centre, CALTA (link opens in a new window), has been set up to develop the technology required to realise the many applications of high power lasers.

 

Medical research

Human epidermal growth factor receptor

We collaborate closely with many other institutions to carry out medical research, on topics including signalling networks in cells, biomedical sensors and non-invasive bone disease and cancer diagnosis.

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