Georg Korn, Head of the Department of Experimental Programs at the Prague Institute. (Image: Ralf A. Niggemann)
Georg Korn, Head of the Department of Experimental Programs at the Prague Institute. (Image: Ralf A. Niggemann)

ELI Beamlines

Technology Without Frontiers

Dr. Georg Korn is coordinating the ELI Beamlines project in the Czech Republic and is responsible for scientific and technological implementation in Dolní Brežany near Prague.


W3+: Dr. Korn, what exactly is the ELI?

Georg Korn: Overall, the ELI project is based on sites in three different new member countries of the European Community: the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania. In future, ELI will be run as a so-called ERIC (European Research Infrastructure Consortium). The three ELI pillars currently being set up are being developed as international “High-power Laser User Facilities” and are part of the European Strategy Forum ESFRI (European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures). The scientific focus of each pillar is matched to its particular scientific history. The Czech Republic (Dolní Břežany near Prague) is working on the ELI Beamlines project, which is dedicated to high power PW lasers with high repetition rates and high energy to provide Beamlines with synchronized and ultrashort X-ray and particle radiation for user applications.

The Czech Republic has a good track record in high power lasers due to the construction and many years of operation of the PALS kilojoule laser. The ELI ALPS research facility in Hungary (Szeged) is concentrating on attosecond science, contributing high-repetition femtosecond lasers which are converted into attopulse by smart transformation of the radiation into the higher harmonics. In Romania (Magurele near Bucharest) the focus is on the application of high-intensity radiation in nuclear physics. To achieve this, the scientists there are not only working on lasers but are also setting up a brilliant acceleration-based Compton source that allows the excitation of nuclear transitions. The facility is directly adjacent to the site of a nuclear research center.

Apart from a kHz, 20 fs 100-200 mJ laser entirely developed by the Prague specialists, the laser sources for the project are being developed in close cooperation with the US American Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and National Energetics in Austin, Texas together with Expla, Lithuania. The facility will give the world’s leading research scientists access to laser technology that is far beyond the current state-of-the-art. 1 petawatt (1 PW = 1015 watts!) at 30 joules, 30 femtoseconds (fs) and a repetition rate of 10 Hz (High-Repetition-Rate Advanced Petawatt Laser System, HAPLS) or 10 PW at 1.5 kilojoules in 150 fs at a shot rate of one laser pulse per minute will allow the generation of high-brightness short X-ray sources and the acceleration of protons and ions at repetition rates up to 10 Hz. The 1.5 kilojoule, 10 PW laser system will be the most powerful laser of its class in the world. The highly attractive and unique capabilities of the new ELI Beamlines facility will appeal to academic and industrial researchers from across the world.

W3+: What opportunities open up for Europe’s industry and science by taking part in this project?

Georg Korn: The international cooperation between the world-leading US laser laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, the European research infrastructure and industry will provide a strong impetus for the internationalization of laser and precision laser optics development and will strengthen education, science and innovation as well as protect all partners’ competitiveness in these important research areas. Laser technology is only 57 years old, but today everyone uses the incredible capabilities of laser light. Fiber laser amplifiers have revolutionized telecommunications, lasers weld car bodies, CD players and scanners are part of our everyday life. With ELI and its 10-petawatt lasers, Europe paves the way for achieving focused intensities that are getting close to the point where matter is generated out of the vacuum. Due to the unique high repetition rate, the X-ray and particle sources that will be driven by the ELI Beamlines lasers will allow for the first time real biomedical applications that can potentially cure tumors or help track the course of new drugs in the human body and understand or optimize their effect.

W3+: What are you hoping will come out of the cooperation between Wetzlar Network, the Academy of Sciences in Prague and the SIC Innovation Cluster?

Georg Korn: Wetzlar Network, the Institute of Physics running the ELI Beamlines project and the innovation cluster SIC are ideal partners to address global challenges like health and biomedical applications and to push laser technology and optics technologies far beyond the current state-of-the art. The same is true for the exciting innovative applications. Only an ultra-precise PW laser facility like ELI offering 10 Hz repetition rate can really enable the development and optimization of genuine applications. ELI’s laser technology alone requires a team-up of a cluster of the world’s leading laser laboratories and companies in the US and Europe. Wetzlar Network will link us with more than 70 world-leading optics, opto-mechanics and optical metrology companies in the Wetzlar region. The quality of a laser is critically dependent on its precision components.

W3+: With regard to the W3+ FAIR – how can an exhibitor or visitor derive benefit from the cooperation or its presence at the fair?

Georg Korn: ELI Beamlines engineering and optics challenges are huge. Companies and visitors may learn from us what we need, and together we may drive developments which are also commercially very attractive. We still have to procure for several millions of Euros ultra-clean vacuum systems with 100 and more cubic meters of volume, ultra-precise, highest laser damage optics, coatings and precision mechanics. Needless to say, we also have a mission in education: students visiting the W3+ FAIR will potentially become our future users discovering exciting new physics in our laboratory. Health, energy, astrophysics in the laboratory – these are just a few hot topics within the international high-intensity laser user community. Wetzlar Network already has the mission and the funding from the BMBF to develop R&D proposals together with us and SIC. Companies and universities are invited to join our effort.


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