From The University of California-San Diego: “US and Czech Scientists Collaborate To Explore Gamma-Ray Production With High Power Lasers” 

From The University of California-San Diego

July 01, 2022
Daniel Kane

The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Czech Science Foundation (GACR) are funding a new collaborative project of scientists from the University of California San Diego in the U.S. and ELI Beamlines (Institute of Physics of the Czech Academy of Sciences) in the Czech Republic which aims to leverage the capabilities of the ELI Beamlines multi-petawatt laser facility.

Researchers hope these experiments can achieve a breakthrough by demonstrating efficient generation of dense gamma-ray beams.

Stellar objects like pulsars can create matter and antimatter directly from light because of their extreme energies. In fact, the magnetic field, or “magnetosphere,” of a pulsar is filled with electrons and positrons that are created by colliding photons.

Reproducing the same phenomena in a laboratory on Earth is extremely challenging. It requires a dense cloud of photons with energies that are millions of times higher than visible light, an achievement that has so far eluded the scientists working in this field. However, theories suggest that high-power lasers ought to be able to produce such a photon cloud.

As the first international laser research infrastructure dedicated to the application of high-power and high-intensity lasers, the Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI ERIC) facilities will enable such research possibilities. The ELI ERIC is a multi-site research infrastructure based on specialized and complementary facilities ELI Beamlines (Czech Republic) and ELI ALPS (Hungary). The new capabilities at ELI will create the necessary conditions to test the theories in a laboratory.

Super computer simulation of energetic gamma-ray emission (yellow arrows) by a dense plasma (green) irradiated by a high-intensity laser beam (red and blue). The laser propagates from left to right, with the emitted photons flying in the same direction. The smooth blue and red regions represent a strong magnetic field generated by the plasma, whereas the oscillation region corresponds to the laser magnetic field.

This project combines theoretical expertise from the University of California San Diego (U.S.), experimental expertise from ELI Beamlines, as well as target fabrication and engineering expertise from General Atomics (U.S.). The roughly $1,000,000 project, jointly funded by NSF and GACR, will be led by Prof. Alexey Arefiev at UC San Diego. Target development for rep-rated deployment will take place at General Atomics, led by Dr. Mario Manuel, while the primary experiments will be conducted at ELI Beamlines by a team led by Dr. Florian Condamine and Dr. Stefan Weber.

The concept for the project was developed by Arefiev’s research group at UC San Diego, which specializes in supercomputer simulations of intense light-matter interactions. The approach for this project leverages an effect that occurs when electrons in a plasma are accelerated to near light speeds by a high-powered laser. This effect is called “relativistic transparency” because it causes a previously opaque dense plasma to become transparent to laser light.

In this regime, extremely strong magnetic fields are generated as the laser propagates through the plasma. During this process, the relativistic electrons oscillate in the magnetic field, which in turn causes the emission of gamma-rays, predominantly in the direction of the laser.

“It is very exciting that we are in a position to generate the sort of magnetic fields that previously only existed in extreme astrophysical objects, such as neutron stars,” says Arefiev. “The ability of the ELI Beamlines lasers to reach very high on-target intensity is the key to achieving this regime.”

These experiments will provide the first statistically relevant study of gamma-ray generation using high-powered lasers. Researchers hope the work will open the way for secondary high-energy photon sources that can be used not only for fundamental physics studies, but also for a range of important industrial applications such as material science, nuclear waste imaging, nuclear fuel assay, security, high-resolution deep-penetration radiography, etc. Such “extreme imaging” requires robust, reproducible, and well-controlled gamma-ray sources. The present proposal aims exactly at the development of such unprecedented sources.

The experiments will be greatly assisted by another technological advance. Until recently, high-power laser facilities could execute about one shot every hour, which limited the amount of data that could be collected. However, new facilities like ELI Beamlines are capable of multiple shots per second. These capabilities allow for statistical studies of laser-target interactions in ways that were impossible only a few years ago. That means a shift in the way such experiments are designed and executed is necessary to take full advantage of the possibilities.

“The P3 installation at ELI Beamlines is a unique and versatile experimental infrastructure for sophisticated high-field experiments and perfectly adapted to the planned program,” comments Condamine. Weber notes, “This collaboration between San Diego and ELI Beamlines is expected to be a major step forward to bring together the US community and the ELI-team for joint experiments.”

Thus, a major part of this project is training the next generation of scientists at ELI Beamlines to develop techniques that can fully leverage its rep-rated capabilities. UC San Diego students and postdoctoral researchers will also train on rep-rated target deployment and data acquisition on General Atomics’ new GALADRIEL laser facility to help improve the efficiency of the experiments conducted at ELI Beamlines.

The P3 (Plasma Physics Platform)-installation at ELI Beamlines where the experiments will take place.

“This is the first project funded by the Czech Science Foundation and the US National Science Foundation. I believe that the new collaboration between the agencies will lead to a number of successful projects and collaborating scientific teams from the Czech Republic and the USA will benefit from it,” says GACR president Dr. Petr Baldrian.

“We are thrilled to be working with our counterparts in the Czech Republic to further expand international scientific cooperation in artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and plasma science research. I am optimistic this will be the first of many collaborative projects between NSF and GACR,” says the Director of NSF, Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan.

See the full article here .


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Stem Education Coalition

The University of California- San Diego, is a public research university located in the La Jolla area of San Diego, California, in the United States. The university occupies 2,141 acres (866 ha) near the coast of the Pacific Ocean with the main campus resting on approximately 1,152 acres (466 ha). Established in 1960 near the pre-existing Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California-San Diego is the seventh oldest of the 10 University of California campuses and offers over 200 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, enrolling about 22,700 undergraduate and 6,300 graduate students. The University of California-San Diego is one of America’s “Public Ivy” universities, which recognizes top public research universities in the United States. The University of California-San Diego was ranked 8th among public universities and 37th among all universities in the United States, and rated the 18th Top World University by U.S. News & World Report’s 2015 rankings.

The University of California-San Diego is organized into seven undergraduate residential colleges (Revelle; John Muir; Thurgood Marshall; Earl Warren; Eleanor Roosevelt; Sixth; and Seventh), four academic divisions (Arts and Humanities; Biological Sciences; Physical Sciences; and Social Sciences), and seven graduate and professional schools (Jacobs School of Engineering; Rady School of Management; Scripps Institution of Oceanography; School of Global Policy and Strategy; School of Medicine; Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences; and the newly established Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science). University of California-San Diego Health, the region’s only academic health system, provides patient care; conducts medical research; and educates future health care professionals at the University of California-San Diego Medical Center, Hillcrest; Jacobs Medical Center; Moores Cancer Center; Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center; Shiley Eye Institute; Institute for Genomic Medicine; Koman Family Outpatient Pavilion and various express care and urgent care clinics throughout San Diego.

The university operates 19 organized research units (ORUs), including the Center for Energy Research; Qualcomm Institute (a branch of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology); San Diego Supercomputer Center; and the Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind, as well as eight School of Medicine research units, six research centers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and two multi-campus initiatives, including the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation. The University of California-San Diego is also closely affiliated with several regional research centers, such as the Salk Institute; the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute; the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine; and the Scripps Research Institute. It is classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity”. According to the National Science Foundation, UC San Diego spent $1.265 billion on research and development in fiscal year 2018, ranking it 7th in the nation.

The University of California-San Diego is considered one of the country’s “Public Ivies”. As of February 2021, The University of California-San Diego faculty, researchers and alumni have won 27 Nobel Prizes and three Fields Medals, eight National Medals of Science, eight MacArthur Fellowships, and three Pulitzer Prizes. Additionally, of the current faculty, 29 have been elected to the National Academy of Engineering, 70 to the National Academy of Sciences, 45 to the National Academy of Medicine and 110 to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


When the Regents of the University of California originally authorized the San Diego campus in 1956, it was planned to be a graduate and research institution, providing instruction in the sciences, mathematics, and engineering. Local citizens supported the idea, voting the same year to transfer to the university 59 acres (24 ha) of mesa land on the coast near the preexisting Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The Regents requested an additional gift of 550 acres (220 ha) of undeveloped mesa land northeast of Scripps, as well as 500 acres (200 ha) on the former site of Camp Matthews from the federal government, but Roger Revelle, then director of Scripps Institution and main advocate for establishing the new campus, jeopardized the site selection by exposing the La Jolla community’s exclusive real estate business practices, which were antagonistic to minority racial and religious groups. This outraged local conservatives, as well as Regent Edwin W. Pauley.

University of California President Clark Kerr satisfied San Diego city donors by changing the proposed name from University of California, La Jolla, to University of California-San Diego. The city voted in agreement to its part in 1958, and the University of California approved construction of the new campus in 1960. Because of the clash with Pauley, Revelle was not made chancellor. Herbert York, first director of DOE’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, was designated instead. York planned the main campus according to the “Oxbridge” model, relying on many of Revelle’s ideas.

According to Kerr, “San Diego always asked for the best,” though this created much friction throughout the University of California system, including with Kerr himself, because University of California-San Diego often seemed to be “asking for too much and too fast.” Kerr attributed University of California-San Diego’s “special personality” to Scripps, which for over five decades had been the most isolated University of California unit in every sense: geographically, financially, and institutionally. It was a great shock to the Scripps community to learn that Scripps was now expected to become the nucleus of a new University of California campus and would now be the object of far more attention from both the university administration in Berkeley and the state government in Sacramento.

The University of California-San Diego was the first general campus of the University of California to be designed “from the top down” in terms of research emphasis. Local leaders disagreed on whether the new school should be a technical research institute or a more broadly based school that included undergraduates as well. John Jay Hopkins of General Dynamics Corporation pledged one million dollars for the former while the City Council offered free land for the latter. The original authorization for the University of California-San Diego campus given by the University of California Regents in 1956 approved a “graduate program in science and technology” that included undergraduate programs, a compromise that won both the support of General Dynamics and the city voters’ approval.

Nobel laureate Harold Urey, a physicist from the University of Chicago, and Hans Suess, who had published the first paper on the greenhouse effect with Revelle in the previous year, were early recruits to the faculty in 1958. Maria Goeppert-Mayer, later the second female Nobel laureate in physics, was appointed professor of physics in 1960. The graduate division of the school opened in 1960 with 20 faculty in residence, with instruction offered in the fields of physics, biology, chemistry, and earth science. Before the main campus completed construction, classes were held in the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

By 1963, new facilities on the mesa had been finished for the School of Science and Engineering, and new buildings were under construction for Social Sciences and Humanities. Ten additional faculty in those disciplines were hired, and the whole site was designated the First College, later renamed after Roger Revelle, of the new campus. York resigned as chancellor that year and was replaced by John Semple Galbraith. The undergraduate program accepted its first class of 181 freshman at Revelle College in 1964. Second College was founded in 1964, on the land deeded by the federal government, and named after environmentalist John Muir two years later. The University of California-San Diego School of Medicine also accepted its first students in 1966.

Political theorist Herbert Marcuse joined the faculty in 1965. A champion of the New Left, he reportedly was the first protester to occupy the administration building in a demonstration organized by his student, political activist Angela Davis. The American Legion offered to buy out the remainder of Marcuse’s contract for $20,000; the Regents censured Chancellor William J. McGill for defending Marcuse on the basis of academic freedom, but further action was averted after local leaders expressed support for Marcuse. Further student unrest was felt at the university, as the United States increased its involvement in the Vietnam War during the mid-1960s, when a student raised a Viet Minh flag over the campus. Protests escalated as the war continued and were only exacerbated after the National Guard fired on student protesters at Kent State University in 1970. Over 200 students occupied Urey Hall, with one student setting himself on fire in protest of the war.

Early research activity and faculty quality, notably in the sciences, was integral to shaping the focus and culture of the university. Even before The University of California-San Diego had its own campus, faculty recruits had already made significant research breakthroughs, such as the Keeling Curve, a graph that plots rapidly increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and was the first significant evidence for global climate change; the Kohn–Sham equations, used to investigate particular atoms and molecules in quantum chemistry; and the Miller–Urey experiment, which gave birth to the field of prebiotic chemistry.

Engineering, particularly computer science, became an important part of the university’s academics as it matured. University researchers helped develop University of California-San Diego Pascal, an early machine-independent programming language that later heavily influenced Java; the National Science Foundation Network, a precursor to the Internet; and the Network News Transfer Protocol during the late 1970s to 1980s. In economics, the methods for analyzing economic time series with time-varying volatility (ARCH), and with common trends (cointegration) were developed. The University of California-San Diego maintained its research intense character after its founding, racking up 25 Nobel Laureates affiliated within 50 years of history; a rate of five per decade.

Under Richard C. Atkinson’s leadership as chancellor from 1980 to 1995, the university strengthened its ties with the city of San Diego by encouraging technology transfer with developing companies, transforming San Diego into a world leader in technology-based industries. He oversaw a rapid expansion of the School of Engineering, later renamed after Qualcomm founder Irwin M. Jacobs, with the construction of the San Diego Supercomputer Center and establishment of the computer science, electrical engineering, and bioengineering departments. Private donations increased from $15 million to nearly $50 million annually, faculty expanded by nearly 50%, and enrollment doubled to about 18,000 students during his administration. By the end of his chancellorship, the quality of The University of California-San Diego graduate programs was ranked 10th in the nation by the National Research Council.

The university continued to undergo further expansion during the first decade of the new millennium with the establishment and construction of two new professional schools — the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Rady School of Management—and the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, a research institute run jointly with University of California Irvine. The University of California-San Diego also reached two financial milestones during this time, becoming the first university in the western region to raise over $1 billion in its eight-year fundraising campaign in 2007 and also obtaining an additional $1 billion through research contracts and grants in a single fiscal year for the first time in 2010. Despite this, due to the California budget crisis, the university loaned $40 million against its own assets in 2009 to offset a significant reduction in state educational appropriations. The salary of Pradeep Khosla, who became chancellor in 2012, has been the subject of controversy amidst continued budget cuts and tuition increases.

On November 27, 2017, the university announced it would leave its longtime athletic home of the California Collegiate Athletic Association, an NCAA Division II league, to begin a transition to Division I in 2020. At that time, it will join the Big West Conference, already home to four other UC campuses (Davis, Irvine, Riverside, Santa Barbara). The transition period will run through the 2023–24 school year. The university prepares to transition to NCAA Division I competition on July 1, 2020.


Applied Physics and Mathematics

The Nature Index lists The University of California-San Diego as 6th in the United States for research output by article count in 2019. In 2017, The University of California-San Diego spent $1.13 billion on research, the 7th highest expenditure among academic institutions in the U.S. The university operates several organized research units, including the Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences (CASS), the Center for Drug Discovery Innovation, and the Institute for Neural Computation. The University of California-San Diego also maintains close ties to the nearby Scripps Research Institute and Salk Institute for Biological Studies. In 1977, The University of California-San Diego developed and released the University of California-San Diego Pascal programming language. The university was designated as one of the original national Alzheimer’s disease research centers in 1984 by the National Institute on Aging. In 2018, The University of California-San Diego received $10.5 million from the DOE National Nuclear Security Administration to establish the Center for Matters under Extreme Pressure (CMEC).

The university founded the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) in 1985, which provides high performance computing for research in various scientific disciplines. In 2000, The University of California-San Diego partnered with The University of California-Irvine to create the Qualcomm Institute – University of California-San Diego, which integrates research in photonics, nanotechnology, and wireless telecommunication to develop solutions to problems in energy, health, and the environment.

The University of California-San Diego also operates the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, one of the largest centers of research in earth science in the world, which predates the university itself. Together, SDSC and SIO, along with funding partner universities California Institute of Technology, San Diego State University, and The University of California-Santa Barbara, manage the High Performance Wireless Research and Education Network.