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With a $16 million grant from NSF, the University of Michigan will build a laser that has the highest peak power of any laser in the US. The 3 petawatt system is expected to advance fundamental and applied research with work ranging from testing fundamental quantum electrodynamics to developing lower-cost proton beams for cancer therapy.

The ZEUS laser will be an upgrade of Michigan’s HERCULES 500 terawatt laser, which has been in operation since 2006. It will be open to researchers from other institutions on a competitive basis when completed in about three years, says Karl Krushelnick, director of the university’s Gérard Mourou Center for Ultrafast Optical Science. Center namesake Mourou, an emeritus University of Michigan professor, shared half of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics with Donna Strickland of the University of Waterloo in Ontario for their development of chirped pulse amplification, a technology that enabled construction of compact high-power lasers (see Physics Today, December 2018, page 18).

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Category: Science