Central Laser Facility
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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.

Plasma physics: laser science at extreme intensities

Laser plasma interaction using the Vulcan laser

When light from the Central Laser Facility's two high power laser systems, Vulcan and 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.

Spectroscopy and dynamics


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

Life and Science Imaging

Multi-dimensional single molecule spectroscopy

Laser-based imaging techniques are used across the CLF for applications spanning life sciences and engineering. 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.

Theory, computation and data intensive science

Electron transport simulation

Theoretical and computational simulations are used to support much of our experimental work. The Plasma Physics group carries out simulations of laser-plasma interactions, and our imaging work is under-pinned by computational analysis.


Developing new laser technologies

DiPOLE laser system

To ensure its facilities stay world-leading, the CLF has a program of developing new laser technologies and upgrades to the facilities. 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. The pioneering OPCPA method was developed at the CLF.

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