Extreme Light Infrastructure - Nuclear Physics facility (ELI-NP) will operate two unique beam-producing machines:
A very high intensity, ultra-short pulse laser system, with two 10 PW laser arms, able to reach, focused,
intensities of 1023 W/cm2 and electrical fields up to 1015 V/m.
A system producing γ radiation by scattering of light photons on high energy electrons, with tunable energy
of the photons up to 19.5 MeV, spectral density above 103 ph/s/eV and ~ 0.5 % relative bandwidth.
The infrastructure will provide a new European laboratory addressing a broad range of scientific research areas,
from frontier fundamental physics, new nuclear physics and astrophysics to applications in nuclear materials,
radioactive waste management, material science and life sciences.
Two guiding principles have been observed in the implementation of ELI-NP:
- a gradual, staged development of the experimental capabilities;
- a flexible design of the equipment, adapted to the user-facility operation regime.
ELI-NP will allow, in the several areas available, experiments based on the ultra-short, high-power laser
pulses, experiments based on the high-intensity γ beam, and also experiments in which both types of
radiation may be used.
The high power lasers allow for intensities in tightly focused pulses of up to, and beyond,
1023 W/cm2. At this laser intensity, theory and particle-in-cell simulations predict a high conversion of laser power
into a flash of gamma rays generated mainly via nonlinear Thomson scattering, in net contraposition with the radiation
generate at laser intensities below 1021 W/cm2, which are fundamentally bremsstrahlung dominated and strongly dependent
on the target material.
In ion acceleration, the high power laser pulse allows for the production of ion beams 1015 times denser than those
achieved with classical acceleration. The cascaded fission-fusion reaction mechanism can then be used to produce very
neutron-rich heavy nuclei for the first time. These nuclei allow to investigate the N=126 waiting point of the
r-process in nucleosynthesis, bringing significant contributions to one of the fundamental problems of astrophysics –
the production of the heavy elements beyond iron in the universe. According to a recent report by the National Research
Council of the National Academy of Science (USA), the origin of the heaviest elements remains one of the eleven greatest
unanswered questions of modern physics.
Lowering the target thickness, we will go across different acceleration regimes, from TNSA (Target Normal Sheath Acceleration)
to RPA (Radiation Pressure Acceleration). This along with laser intensity tuning will allow to investigate the scaling laws of
those mechanisms up to the unprecedented laser intensity of 1023 W/cm2, where we should see some QED effects coming into play.
Other research areas of interest are the study of quantum radiation reaction created by plasma electrons
accelerated to GeV energies, and the production of electron-positron pairs in huge abundance and highly
energetic gamma-rays emerging from the laser pulse interaction with electrons.
Applications are also envisaged for the unique laser pulses generated at ELI-NP:
the degradation of materials used in building the next generation of particle accelerators
and fusion or fission reactors, or the interaction of biological systems with a multi-component
ion and photon radiation pattern spanning over a wide range of energies (relevant for improving
biologic radioprotection in space missions, and potentially for radiotherapy and diagnostics of cancers).