On 29 May 2015, PETAL, (PETawatt Aquitaine Laser), delivered a power of 1.2 Petawatt (one million billion Watts). Supplying almost 1000 Joules of optical energy during less than 1 picosecond (1 psec = 10-12 sec.), thus making PETAL the first facility to overcome the Petawatt power barrier at the highest energy level within one beamline. It becomes the most powerful kilojoule-class laser in the world to date. Part of the Megajoule Laser Facility [LMJ] near Bordeaux, France, this instrument positions the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission [CEA] in a leading position worldwide for building and exploiting powerful lasers.
Funded by the Aquitaine region, the French Ministry of Research and Higher Education, the European Union and CEA, PETAL is a technological success. One of the keys to success is the decision by the French Ministry of Defense to open and share the LMJ facility with the civil research community. The very large instrument constituted by PETAL and LMJ will indeed be open to the academic world between 20 and 30% of its available operating time from 2017. First experiments for instrumental qualification should start in 2016, involving in particular Bordeaux University.
Elaborated in partnership with several French industries involved in photonics, PETAL was inaugurated at the CEA-CESTA centre on September 18, 2015 in the presence of the President of the Aquitaine Region, Mr. Alain Rousset, the CEA General Administrator, Mr. Daniel Verwaerde, together with several other high-level personalities.
Coupling PETAL and LMJ offers a unique tool auguring fascinating discoveries in the fields of laser-matter interaction in extreme conditions, laboratory astrophysics, ultra-relativistic plasma physics, inertial confinement fusion, nuclear photonics and novel medical imaging techniques.
The International Year of Light is going on beautifully!