Vulcan is a versatile high power laser system that is composed of Nd:glass amplifier chains capable of delivering up to 2.6 kJ of laser energy in long pulses (nanosecond duration) and up to 1 PW (1015 W) peak power in a short pulse (500 fs duration) at 1053 nm.
It currently has 8 beam lines. Two of these beam lines can operate in either short pulse mode or long pulse mode, while the remaining 6 normally operate in a long pulse mode. The short-pulse and long-pulse systems operating jointly can be directed to two different target areas, enabling sophisticated interaction and probing experiments.
In its short pulse mode, Vulcan is capable of delivering ultra-high focussed intensities greater than 1021 Wcm-2. To achieve these ultra-high intensities a sub-picosecond pulse is amplified to hundreds of Joules and then focused near to its diffraction limit.
This amplification is achieved by using the technique of chirped pulse amplification (CPA). In this mode, a low intensity pulse is stretched in time from a few hundred femtoseconds to nanoseconds. This pulse is then amplified before being recompressed and focused onto the target producing intensities of 1021 Wcm-2.