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The Integrated Initiative of European Laser Research Infrastructures II

Periodic Report Summary 2 - LASERLAB-EUROPE (The integrated initiative of European laser research infrastructures II)

The overall objectives of the project aimed at structuring and increasing the European basis of laser RIs, reaching out to new members states and new scientific communities, tackling the most important scientific challenges in laser research, and supporting the User community through a highly co-ordinated and quality-controlled Access programme.

Networking, JRA and Access play hand in hand towards the objective of structuring the European basis of laser RIs and their operation, with the balance between competition and cooperation being one of the most important structuring elements. For example, LASERLAB-EUROPE's dynamic Access policy forces the host infrastructures towards uniqueness at the European level, introducing elements of competition among them. On the other hand, they strongly cooperate within the five new JRA activities towards overall improvement of access opportunities at the European level. The JRA comprise the leading European actors from the most competitive laser research areas, drawing substantial synergies from comparably small JRA funds. Finally, a proven set of networking activities, including the virtual infrastructure development, User relations and training, Access management, scientific and technological exchanges, foresight activities and external relation complement the inventory of RI structuring tools.

Networking activities play a vital structuring effect in the LASERLAB-EUROPE Consortium, particularly after the substantial increase in the number of partners within the present FP7 project.
Scientific and Technological Exchanges fostered collaborative research among all LASERLAB-EUROPE partners. Hence, it helped maintaining Europe's leading position in laser research through structured programmes of scientific and technical exchanges among infrastructures. They comprised two thematic networks on Ultra-High Intensity Ultrashort Lasers (NAUUL) and High energy Lasers (NAHEL), respectively, related to new national infrastructure projects launched in Europe. The networks held regular meetings, either in combination with international workshops such as Science with PW-class lasers, Paris, France, or as annual network meetings. Technical workshops on Nonlinear nanostructures for ultrafast laser applications, High contrast, intense laser pulses and Infrastructures for Lasers served as platform for the exchange of know-how and catalyst for collaborations. Intra-Consortium exchanges of know-how were organised by means of short term visits in order to enhance the transfer of knowledge and/or good practice between partners of Laserlab-Europe.

User Training helped to increase the User community and reach new scientific communities in a cross-disciplinary perspective. Two Training Schools for potential users were organised: A Training Workshop on High Power Laser Facilities in Salamanca, Spain with more than 30 participants; and a Regional/Eastern Europe Training School in Bratislava, Slovakia, held in conjunction with a workshop on Advanced Optical Techniques in Bio-Imaging, and followed by 2-day practical training on advanced laser and photonics setups. It attracted 56 attendees. For the User Training for Advanced Optical Techniques in Bio-imaging and Bio-processing, related to the JRA OPTBIO and subcontracted to CLLC in Coimbra, Portugal, a third call was published during the second period resulting in the execution of nine short-term training visits.

Access Management and Monitoring Infrastructures-Users Connections allowed to optimise the service to the User community through a joint management and monitoring of the Access activities with strong involvement of the Committee of User Representatives. The second LASERLAB User Meeting in March 2011 in Pisa, Italy gathered 51 participants and was focused on the specific topic Updating optical and laser methods for energetic, materials, chemistry and biomedicine. The third User Meeting in March 2012 was held in Szeged, Hungary. It addressed topics From quantum electronics towards medicine and particle science and attracted 20 participants. In addition, users feedback is collected regularly through a User Questionnaire which Users are asked to complete after finalising their Access projects, and through surveys on user needs and gender issues which have been distributed at User meetings.

Relations with non-European Laser Networks facilitates strategic discussions and support programs on a world scale by interaction with networks representing other global regions and laser-related international organisations. Contacts have been established with two African Laser Networks, the Asian Intense Lasers Network AILN, and with several partners with Latin America. The Latin Laser Lab (L3) Meetings were organised in November 2010 and February 2012 in Salamanca, Spain. On specific research areas LASERLAB cooperates closely with the IUPAP committees ICUIL, the International Committee on Ultra-High Intensity Lasers, and ICFA, the International Committee on Future Accelerators.

The objectives of tackling the most important scientific challenges in laser research and, at the same time, reaching out to new scientific communities are met through five JRAs, including one from life sciences. These JRAs react to the latest global trends in laser science and are meant to substantiate LASERLAB-EUROPE's self-chosen role as the central place in Europe where the latest developments in laser research, of relevance to science, life sciences and society as a whole, will be tackled beyond the national scale, thus contributing towards the development of the world's first international laser projects ELI and HiPER.

In the JRA ALADIN important results have been achieved related to attosecond science. They include scaling as/few-fs pulse generation to higher intensities and higher photon energies, progress in attosecond pulse generation, e.g. through phase control, diagnostics and pulse compression at high pulse energy, and progress in XUV optics and new detection and diagnostic techniques. Progress in applications includes nonlinear science in the XUV, pump/probe techniques with phase-stabilized ultrafast lasers, ultrafast XUV metrology/spectroscopy at surfaces or in solids, and precision measurements in gases.

The JRA SFINX aimed at offering to LASERLAB users soft x-ray lasers with improved parameters, e.g. higher repetition rate, higher intensity, shorter pulse duration or shorter wavelength. Progress includes a bidimensional hydrodynamic code, ARWEN, which is now available for the whole soft x-ray laser community. Several improvements have been permanently set on x-ray laser facilities for the benefit of users. A new soft x-ray laser facility is being opened at Berlin. SFINX also defined a clear road from the current soft x-ray lasers emitting MW peak power to multi-GW when they will be installed on Extreme Light Infrastructures, ELI, or on the French APOLLON facility. Such sources will complement the today's soft x-ray free-electron lasers.

The JRA LAPTECH focused on laser plasma acceleration techniques, aiming at ambitious performances of the electron beams (shortness, brightness, spatial quality), and drive applications in many fields including medicine, radiobiology, chemistry, material science, security, and of course accelerator science. Important new results have been obtained in theory of the wakefield acceleration process, including new codes and numerical simulation methods. Experimentally the progress was also far beyond the initially proposal, including the first electron acceleration experiments with the sub-10-fs multi-10-TW system in the self-injection regime, or a novel injection mechanism with density gradient to improve the electron stability which was compared with the colliding pulse scheme, or the observation of the smallest energy spreads that have been measured to date by the community.

The HAPPIE JRA built on high power/high rep rate European laser project investments. It successfully targeted new technological developments centred on a High Power mission, and was aligned to a vision of future high average, high peak power developments. Topics focused on diode-pumped solid-state lasers (DPSSL) to provide high average but low peak power, on high peak power being achieved by efficiently converting DPSSL laser chains into a high peak power through a non-linear interactions in Optical Parametric Chirped Pulse Amplification (OPCPA), and on single beam systems being finally coherently combined to further increase power.

The JRA OPTBIO has successfully pursed three main objectives: Laser analysis and manipulation of biological samples, addressing the need of efficient handling of tiny biological objects such as individual cells or even molecules, strands of DNA and polymer strings, and to simultaneously perform advanced optical and mechanical measurements on them, Advanced microscopy which has led to significant improvements in capacities for advanced imaging beyond what is commercially available and to the development of novel methodologies for the investigation of living cells and animals, and Bio-medical imaging which has allowed the development of advanced tools for in-vivo imaging, expanding our knowledge of the optical properties of tissues in-vivo, in particular in the key areas of neurosciences and skin cancer research.